UNIVERSITY OF NORTH CAROLINA,
Endowed by the Dialectic and Pliiiantiiropic Societies.
Alcovk r* ^ A- 'T-- Shelf
This book must not
be token from the
Form No. 471
Digitized by tine Internet Arciiive
in 2012 with funding from
University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill
CHARLES W. CHESNUTT
BOSTON AND NEW YORK
HOUGHTON, MIFFLIN AND COMPANY
COPYRIGHT, lagg, BY CHARLES W. CHESNUTT
ALL RIGHTS RESERVED
THE GOOPHERED GRAPEVINE I
PO' SANDY 36
MARS JEEMS'S NIGHTMARE 64
THE conjurer's REVENGE I03
sis' Becky's pickaninny 132
THE GRAY WOLF'S HA'NT 162
HOT-FOOT HANNIBAL I95
" The Conjurer's Revenge " is reprinted from The Over-
land Monthly by permission of the publishers.
THE CONJURE WOMAN
THE GOOPHERED GRAPEVINE
SOME years ago my wife was in poor
healtli, and our family doctor, in
whose skill and honesty I had implicit
confidence, advised a change of climate.
I shared, from an unprofessional stand-
point, his opinion that the raw winds, the
chill rains, and the violent changes of
temperature that characterized the win-
ters in the region of the Great Lakes
tended to aggravate my wife's difficulty,
and would undoubtedly shorten her life if
she remained exposed to them. The doc-
tor's ad\dce was that w^e seek, not a tem-
porary place of sojourn, but a permanent
residence, in a warmer and more equable
climate. I was engaged at the time in
The Conjure Woman
grape-culture in northern Ohio, and, as
I Uked the business and had given it
much study, I decided to look for some
other locality suitable for carr}dng it on.
I thought of sunny France, of sleepy
Spain, of Southern California, but there
were objections to them all. It occurred
to me that I might find what I wanted in
some one of our own Southern States.
It was a sufficient time after the war for
conditions in the South to have become
somewhat settled ; and I was enough of a
pioneer to start a new industry, if I could
not find a place where grape-culture had
been tried. I wrote to a cousin who had
gone into the turpentine business in cen-
tral North Carolina. He assured me, in
response to my inquiries, that no better
place could be found in the South than
the State and neighborhood where he
lived ; the climate was perfect for health,
and, in conj unction w^th the soil, ideal for
grape-culture ; labor was cheap, and land
The Goophered Grapevine 3
could be bought for a mere song. He
gave us a cordial invitation to come and
visit him while we looked into the mat-
ter. We accepted the invitation, and
after several days of leisurely travel, the
last hundred miles of which were up a
river on a sidewheel steamer, we reached
our destination, a quaint old town, which
I shall call Patesville, because, for one
reason, that is not its name. There
was a red brick market-house in the
public square, with a tall tower, which
held a four-faced clock that struck the
hours, and from which there pealed out
a curfew at nine o'clock. There were
two or three hotels, a court-house, a
jail, stores, offices, and, all the appurte-
nances of a county seat and a com-
mercial emporium ; for while Patesville
numbered only four or five thousand
inhabitants, of all shades of complexion,
it was one of the principal towns in
North Carolina, and had a considerable
The Conjure Woman
trade in cotton and naval stores. This
business activity was not immediately
apparent to my unaccustomed eyes. In-
deed, when I first saw the town, there
brooded over it a calm that seemed al-
most sabbatic in its restfulness, though
I learned later on that underneath its
somnolent exterior the deeper currents
of life — love and hatred, joy and de-
spair, ambition and avarice, faith and
friendship — flowed not less steadily
than in livelier latitudes.
We found the weather delightful at
that season, the end of summer, and
were hospitably entertained. Our host
was a man of means and evidently re-
garded our visit as a pleasure, and we
were therefore correspondingly at our
ease, and in a position to act with the
coolness of judgment desirable in mak-
ing so radical a change in our lives.
My cousin placed a horse and buggy at
our disposal, and himself acted as our
, The Goophered Grapevine 5
guide until I became somewhat familiar
with the country.
I found that grape-culture, while it
had never been carried on to any great
extent, was not entirely unknown in the
neighborhood. Several planters there-
abouts had attempted it on a commer-
cial scale, in former years, with greater
or less success ; but like most Southern
industries, it had felt the blight of war
and had fallen into desuetude.
I went several times to look at a place
that I thought might suit me. It was a
plantation of considerable extent, that
had formerly belonged to a wealthy man
by the name of McAdoo. The estate
had been for years involved in litigation
between disputing heirs, during which
period shiftless cultivation had well-nigh
exhausted the soil. There had been a
vineyard of some extent on the place,
but it had not been attended to since
the war, and had lapsed into utter neg-
The Conjure Woman
lect. The vines — here partly supported
by decayed and broken-down trellises,
there twining themselves among the
branches of the slender saplings which
had sprung up among them — grew in
wild and unpruned luxuriance, and the
few scattered grapes they bore were
the undisputed prey of the first comer.
The site was admirably adapted to grape-
raising ; the soil, with a little attention,
could not have been better ; and with
the native grape, the luscious scupper-
nong, as my main reliance in the begin-
ning, I felt sure that I could introduce
and cultivate successfully a number of
One day I went over with my wife to
show her the place. We drove out of
the town over a long wooden bridge that
spanned a spreading mill-pond, passed
the long whitewashed fence surrounding
the county fair-ground, and struck into
a road so sandy that the horse's feet
The Goophered Grapevine 7
sank to the fetlocks. Our route lay-
partly up hill and partly down, for we
were in the sand-hill county ; we drove
past cultivated farms, and then by aban-
doned fields grown up in scrub-oak and
short-leaved pine, and once or twice
through the solemn aisles of the virgin
forest, where the tall pines, well-nigh
meeting over the narrow road, shut out
the sun, and wrapped us in cloistral sol-
itude. Once, at a cross-roads, I was in
doubt as to the turn to take, and we sat
there waiting ten minutes — we had al-
ready caught some of the native infec-
tion of restfulness — for some human
being to come along, who could direct
us on our way. At length a little negro
girl appeared, walking straight as an
arrow, with a piggin full of water on
her head. After a little patient investi-
gation, necessary to overcome the child's
shyness, we learned what we wished to
know, and at the end of about five miles
from the town reached our destination.
The Conjure Woman
We drove between a pair of decayed
gateposts — the gate itself had long
since disappeared — and up a straight
sandy lane, between two lines of rotting
rail fence, partly concealed by jimson-
weeds and briers, to the open space
where a dwelling-house had once stood,
evidently a spacious mansion, if we
might judge from the ruined chimneys
that were still standing, and the brick
pillars on which the sills rested. The
house itself, we had been informed, had
fallen a victim to the fortunes of war.
We alighted from the buggy, walked
about the yard for a while, and then
wandered off into the adjoining vine-
yard. Upon Annie's complaining of
weariness I led the way back to the
yard, where a pine log, lying under a
spreading elm, afforded a shady though
somewhat hard seat. One end of the
log was already occupied by a venerable-
looking colored man. He held on his
The Goophered Grapevine 9
knees a hat full of grapes, over which
he was smacking his lips with great
gusto, and a pile of grapeskins near
him indicated that the performance was
no new thing. We approached him at
an angle from the rear, and were close
to him before he perceived us. He re-
spectfully rose as we drew near, and was
moving away, when I begged him to
keep his seat.
"Don't let us disturb you," I said.
"There is plenty of- room for us all."
He resumed his seat with somewhat
of embarrassment. While he had been
standing, I had observed that he was a
tall man, and, though slightly bowed by
the weight of years, apparently quite
vigorous. He was not entirely black,
and this fact, together with the quality
of his hair, which was about six inches
long and very bushy, except on the top
of his head, where he was quite bald,
suggested a slight strain of other than
lO The Conjure Woman
negro blood. There was a shrewdness
in his eyes, too, which was not altogether
African, and which, as we afterwards
learned from experience, was indicative
of a corresponding shrewdness in his
character. He went on eating the
grapes, but did not seem to enjoy him-
self quite so well as he had apparently
done before he became aware of our
" Do you live around here .'' " I asked,
anxious to put him at his ease.
" Yas, suh. I lives des ober yander,
behine de nex' san'-hill, on de Lumber-
" Do you know anything about the
time when this vineyard was culti-
vated } "
"Lawd bless you, suh, I knows all
about it. Dey ain' na'er a man in dis
settlement w'at won' tell you ole Julius
McAdoo 'uz bawn en raise' on dis yer
same plantation. Is you de Norv'n
T]ie Goophered Grapevine ii
gemman w'at 's gwine ter buy de ole
vimya'd ? "
" I am looking at it," I replied ; " but
I don't know that I shall care to buy
unless I can be reasonably sure of mak-
ing something out of it."
" Well, suh, you is a stranger ter me,
en I is a stranger ter you, en we is bofe
strangers ter one anudder, but 'f I 'uz
in yo' place, I would n' buy dis vim-
" Why not ? " I asked.
" Well, I dunno whe'r you b'lieves in
cunj'in' er not, — some er de w'ite folks
don't, er says dey don't, — but de truf
er de matter is dat dis yer ole vimya'd
" Is what .'' " I asked, not grasping
the meaning of this unfamiliar word.
" Is goophered, — cunju'd, bewitch'."
He imparted this information with
such solemn earnestness, and with such
an air of confidential mystery, that I
12 The Conjure Woman
felt somewhat interested, while Annie
was evidently much impressed, and drew
closer to me.
" How do you know it is bewitched ? "
" I would n' spec' fer you ter b'lieve
me 'less you know all 'bout de fac's.
But ef you en young miss dere doan'
min' lis'nin' ter a ole nigger run on a
minute er two w'ile you er restin', I kin
'splain to you how it all happen'."
We assured him that we would be
glad to hear how it all happened, and
he began to tell us. At first the cur-
rent of his memory — or imagination —
seemed somewhat sluggish ; but as his
embarrassment wore off, his language
flowed more freely, and the story ac-
quired perspective and coherence. As
he became more and more absorbed in
the narrative, his eyes assumed a dreamy
expression, and he seemed to lose sight
of his auditors, and to be living over
The Goophered Grapevine 13
again in monologue his life on the old
" Ole Mars Dugal' McAdoo," he be-
gan, " bought dis place long many years
befo' de wah, en I 'member well w'en
he sot out all dis yer part er de planta-
tion in scuppernon's. De vimes growed
monst'us fas', en Mars Dugal' made a
thousan' gallon er scuppernon' wine
" Now, ef dey 's an'thing a nigger
lub, nex' ter 'possum, en chick'n, en
.watermillyums, it 's scuppernon's. Dey
ain' nuffin dat kin stan' up side'n de
scuppernon' fer sweetness ; sugar ain't
a suckumstance ter scuppernon'. W'en
de season is nigh 'bout ober, en de
grapes begin ter swivel up des a little
wid de wrinkles er ole age, — w'en de
skin git sof ' en brown, — den de scup-
pernon' make you smack yo' lip en roll
yo' eye en wush fer mo' ; so I reckon it
ain' very 'stonishin' dat niggers lub scup-
14 The Conjure Woman
" Dey wilz a sight er niggers in de
naberhood er de vimya'd. Dere wuz ole
Mars Henry Bray boy's niggers, en ole
Mars Jeems McLean's niggers, en Mars
Dugal's own niggers ; den dey wuz a
settlement er free niggers en po' buck-
rahs down by de Wim'l'ton Road, en
Mars Dugal' had de only vimya'd in de
naberhood. I reckon it ain' so much so
nowadays, but befo' de wah, in slab'ry
times, a nigger did n' mine goin' fi' er
ten mile in a night, w'en dey wuz sump'n
good ter eat at de yuther een'.
" So atter a w'ile Mars Dugal' begin
ter miss his scuppernon's. Co'se he
'cuse' de niggers er it, but dey all 'nied
it ter de las'. Mars Dugal' sot spring
guns en steel traps, en he en de oberseah
sot up nights once't er twice't, tel one
night Mars Dugal' — he 'uz a monst'us
keerless man — got his leg shot full er
cow-peas. But somehow er nudder dey
could n' nebber ketch none er de niggers.
Tlie Goophered Grapevine 15
I dunner how it happen, but it happen
des Hke I tell you, en de grapes kep' on
a-goin' des de same.
"But bimeby ole Mars Dugal' fix' up
a plan ter stop it, Dey wuz a cunjuh
'oman livin' down 'mongs' de free nig-
gers on de Wim'l'ton Road, en all de
darkies fum Rockfish ter Beaver Crick
wuz feared er her. She could wuk de
mos' powerfulles' kin' er goopher, —
could make people hab fits, er rheumatiz,
er make 'em des dwinel away en die ;
en dey say she went out ridin' de niggers
at night, fer she wuz a witch 'sides bein'
a cunjuh 'oman. Mars Dugal' hearn
'bout Aun' Peggy's doin's, en begun ter
'fleet whe'r er no he could n' git her ter
he'p him keep de niggers off' n de grape-
vimes. One day in de spring er de year,
ole miss pack' up a basket er chick'n
en poun'-cake, en a bottle er scuppernon'
wine, en Mars Dugal' tuk it in his buggy
en driv ober ter Aun' Peggy's cabin.
1 6 The Conjure Woman
He tuk de basket in, en had a long talk
wid Aun' Peggy. /-''
" De nex' day Aun' Peggy come up
ter de vimya'd. De niggers seed her
slippin' 'roun', en dey soon foun' out
what she 'uz doin' dere. Mars Dugal'
had hi'ed her ter goopher de grape-
vimes. She sa'ntered 'roun' 'mongs' de
vimes, en tuk a leaf fum dis one, en a
grape-hull fum dat one, en a. grape-seed
fum anudder one ; en den a little twig
fum here, en a little pinch er dirt fum
dere, — en put it all in a big black
bottle, wid a snake's toof en a speckle'
hen's gall en some ha'rs fum a black
cat's tail, en den fill' de bottle wid scup-
pernon' wine. Wen she got de goopher
all ready en fix', she tuk 'n went out in
de woods en buried it under de root uv
a red oak tree, en den come back en
tole one er de niggers she done goopher
de grapevimes, en a'er a nigger w'at eat
dem grapes 'ud be sho ter die inside'n
The Goophered Grapevine 17
" Atter dat de niggers let de scupper-
non's 'lone, en Mars Dugal' did n' hab
no 'casion ter fine no mo' fault ; en de
season wuz mos' gone, w'en a strange
gemman stop at de plantation one night
ter see Mars Dugal' on some business ;
en his coachman, seein' de scuppernon's
growin' so nice en sweet, slip 'roun' be-
hine de smoke-house, en et all de scup-
pernon's he could hole. Nobody did n'
notice it at de time, but dat night, on de
way home, de gemman's hoss runned
away en kill' de coachman. W'en we
hearn de noos, Aun' Lucy, de cook, she
up 'n say she seed de strange nigger eat'n'
er de scuppernon's behine de smoke-
house ; en den we knowed de goopher
had b'en er wukkin'. Den one er de
nigger chilluns runned away fum de
quarters one day, en got in de scupper-
non's, en died de nex' week. W'ite folks
say he die' er de fevuh, but de niggers
knowed it wuz de goopher. So you k'n
The Conjure Woman
be sho de darkies did n' hab much ter
' do wid dem scuppernon' vimes.
" Wen de scuppernon' season 'uz ober
fer dat year, Mars Dugal' foun' he had
made fifteen hund'ed gallon er wine ;
en one er de niggers hearn him laffin'
wid de oberseah fit ter kill, en sayin'
dem fifteen hund'ed gallon er wine wuz
monst'us good intrus' on de ten dollars
he laid out on de vimya'd. So I 'low
ez he paid Aun' Peggy ten dollars fer to
goopher de grapevimes.
" De goopher did n' wuk no mo' tel
de nex' summer, w'en 'long to'ds de
middle er de season one er de fiel' ban's
died ; en ez dat lef Mars Dugal' sho't er
ban's, he went off ter town fer ter buy
anudder. He fotch de noo nigger home
wid 'im. He wuz er ole nigger, er de
color er a gingy-cake, en ball ez a boss-
apple on de top er his head. He wuz
a peart ole nigger, do', en could do a
big day's wuk.
TJie Goophered Grapevine 19
" Now it happen dat one er de nig-
gers on de nex' plantation, one er ole
Mars Henry Brayboy's niggers, had
runned away de day befo', en tuk ter de
swamp, en ole Mars Dugal' en some er
de yuther nabor w'ite folks had gone
out wid dere guns en dere dogs fer ter
he'p 'em hunt fer de nigger; en de
ban's on our own plantation wuz all so
fiusterated dat we fuhgot ter tell de noo
ban' 'bout de goopher on de scuppernon*
vimes. Co'se he smell de grapes en see
de vimes, an after dahk de fus' thing he
done wuz ter slip off ter de grapevimes
'dout sayin' nuffin ter nobody. Nex'
mawnin' he tole some er de niggers 'bout
de fine bait er scuppernon' he et de
"Wen dey tole 'im 'bout de goopher
on de grapevimes, he 'uz dat tarrified
dat he turn pale, en look des like he
*gwine ter die right in his tracks. De
oberseah come up en axed w'at 'uz de
20 The Conjure Woman
matter ; en w'en dey tola 'im Henry
be'n eatin' er de scuppernon's, en got
de goopher on 'im, be gin Henry a big
drink er w'iskey, en 'low dat de nex'
rainy day he take 'im ober ter Aun'
Peggy's, en see ef she would n' take de
goopher off' n him, seein' ez he did n'
know nuffin erbout it tel he done et de
" Sho nuff, it rain de nex' day, en de
oberseah went ober ter Aun' Peggy's
wid Henry. En Aun' Peggy say dat
bein' ez Henry did n' know 'bout de
goopher, en et de grapes in ign'ance er
de conseq'ences, she reck(m she mought
be able fer ter take de goopher off'n
him. So she fotch out er bottle wid
some cunjuh medicine in it, en po'd
some out in a go'd fer Henry ter drink.
He manage ter git it down ; he say it
tas'e like whiskey wid sump'n bitter in
it. She 'lowed dat 'ud keep de goopher
off'n him tel de spring; but w'en de sap
The Goophered Grapevine 21
begin ter rise in de grapevimes he ha'
ter come en see her ag'in, en she tell
him w'at e's ter do.
" Nex spring, w'en de sap commence'
ter rise in de scuppernon' vime, Henry
tuk a ham one night. Whar 'd he git
de ham? / doan know; dey wa'n't no
hams on de plantation 'cep'n' w'at 'uz in
de smoke-house, but /never see Henry
'bout de smoke-house. But ez I wuz
a-sayin', he tuk de ham ober ter Aun'
Peggy's ; en Aun' Peggy tole 'im dat
w'en Mars Dugal' begin ter prune de
grapevimes, he mus' go en take 'n scrape
off de sap whar it ooze out'n de cut
een's er de vimes, en 'n'int his ball head
wid it ; en ef he do dat once't a year de
goopher would n' wuk agin 'im long ez
he done it. En bein' ez he fotch her de
ham, she fix' it so he kin eat all de
scuppernon' he want.
" So Henry 'n'int his head wid de sap
out'n de big grapevime des ha'f way
22 The Conjure Woman
'twix' de quarters en de big house, en
de goopher nebber wuk agin him dat
summer. But de beatenes' thing you
eber see happen ter Henry. Up ter dat
time he wuz ez ball ez a sweeten' 'tater,
but des ez soon ez de young leaves begun
ter come out on de grapevimes, de ha'r
begun ter grow out on Henry's head,
en by de middle er de summer he had
de bigges' head er ha'r on de plantation.
Befo' dat, Henry had tol'able good ha'r
'roun' de aidges, but soon ez de young
grapes begun ter come, Henry's ha'r
begun to quirl all up in little balls, des
like dis yer reg'lar grapy ha'r, en by de
time de grapes got ripe his head look
des like a bunch er grapes. Combin'
it did n' do no good ; he wuk at it ha'f
de night wid er Jim Crow,^ en think he
git it straighten' out, but in de mawnin'
^ A small card, resembling a currycomb in con-
struction, and used by negroes in the rural districts
instead of a comb.
The Goophei'ed Grapevine 23
de grapes 'ud be dere des de same. So
he gin it up, en tried ter keep de grapes
down by bavin' his ha'r cut sho't.
" But dat wa'n't de quares' thing 'bout
de goopher. When Henry come ter de
plantation, he wuz gittin' a little ole an
stiff in de j'ints. But dat summer he
got des ez spry en libely ez any young
nigger on de plantation ; fac', he got so
biggity dat Mars Jackson, de oberseah,
ha' ter th'eaten ter whip 'im, ef he did n'
stop cuttin' up his didos en behave his-
se'f. But de mos' cur'ouses' thing hap-
pen' in de fall, when de sap begin ter
go down in de grapevimes. Fus', when
de grapes 'uz gethered, de knots begun
ter straighten out'n Henry's ha'r ; en
w'en de leaves begin ter fall, Henry's
ha'r 'mence' ter drap out ; en when de
vimes 'uz bar', Henry's head wuz bailer 'n
it wuz in de spring, en he begin ter git
ole en stiff in de j'ints ag'in, en paid
no mo' 'tention ter de gals dyoin' er de
24 TJie Conpire Woman
whole winter. En nex' spring, w'en he
rub de sap on ag'in, he got young ag'in,
en so soopl en libely dat none er de
young niggers on de plantation could n'
jump, ner dance, ner hoe ez much cotton
ez Henry. But in de fall er de year his
grapes 'mence' ter straighten out, en his
j'ints ter git stiff, en his ha'r drap off, en
de rheumatiz begin ter wrastle wid 'im.
" Now, ef you 'd 'a' knowed ole Mars
Dugal' McAdoo, you 'd 'a' knowed dat it
ha' ter be a mighty rainy day when he
could n' fine sump'n fer his niggers ter
do, en it ha' ter be a mighty little hole
he could n' crawl thoo, en ha' ter be a
monst'us cloudy night when a dollar git
by him in de dahkness ; en w'en he see
how Henry git young in de spring en
ole in de fall, he 'lowed ter hisse'f ez
how he could make mo' money out'n
Henry dan by wukkin' him in de cot-
ton-fiel'. 'Long de nex' spring, atter
de sap 'mence' ter rise, en Henry 'n'int
The Goophered Grapevine 25
'is head en sta'ted fer ter git young en
soopl, Mars Dugal' up 'n tuk Henry ter
town, en sole 'im fer fifteen hunder'
dollars. Co'se de man w'at bought
Henry did n' know nuffin 'bout de goo-
pher, en Mars Dugal' did n' see no 'ca-
sion fer ter tell 'im. Long to'ds de fall,
w'en de sap went down, Henry begin
ter git ole ag'in same ez yuzhal, en his
noo marster begin ter git skeered les'n
he gwine ter lose his fifteen-hunder'-dol-
lar nigger. He sent fer a mighty fine
doctor, but de med'cine did n' 'pear ter
do no good ; de goopher had a good
holt. Henry tole de doctor 'bout de
goopher, but de doctor des laff at 'im.
" One day in de winter Mars Dugal'
went ter town, en wuz santerin' 'long de
Main Street, when who should he meet
but Henry's noo marster. Dey said
'Hoddy,' en Mars Dugal' ax 'im ter hab
a seegyar ; en atter dey run on awhile
'bout de craps en de weather. Mars
26 The Conjure Woman
Dugal' ax 'im, sorter keerless, like ez ef
he des thought of it, —
" ' How you like de nigger I sole you
las' spring ? '
" Henry's marster shuck his head en
knock de ashes off 'n his seegyar.
" ' Spec' I made a bad bahgin when I
bought dat nigger. Henry done good
wuk all de summer, but sence de fall set
in he 'pears ter be sorter pinin' away.
Dey ain' nuffin pertickler de matter
wid 'im — leastways de doctor say so —
'cep'n' a tech er de rheumatiz ; but his
ha'r is all fell out, en ef he don't pick
up his strenk mighty soon, I spec' I 'm
gwine ter lose 'im.'
" Dey smoked on awhile, en bimeby
ole mars say, * Well, a bahgin 's a bah-
gin, but you en me is good fren's, en I
doan wan' ter see you lose all de money
you paid fer dat nigger ; en ef w'at you
say is so, en I ain't 'sputin' it, he ain't
wuf much now. I 'spec's you wukked
TJie Goophered Grapevine 27
him too ha'd dis summer, er e'se de
swamps down here don't agree wid de
san'-hill nigger. So you des lemme
know, en ef he gits any wusser I '11 be
willin' ter gib yer five hund'ed dollars fer
'im, en take my chances on his livin'.'
" She 'nuff, when Henry begun ter
draw up wid de rheumatiz en it look
like he gwine ter die fer sho, his noo
marster sen' fer Mars Dugal', en Mars
Dugal' gin him what he promus, en
brung Henry home ag'in. He tuk
good keer uv 'im dyoin' er de winter, —
give 'im w'iskey ter rub his rheumatiz,
en terbacker ter smoke, en all he want
ter eat, — 'caze a nigger w'at he could
make a thousan' dollars a year off'n
did n' grow on eve'y huckleberry bush.
" Nex' spring, w'en de sap ris en
Henry's ha'r commence' ter sprout, Mars
Dugal' sole 'im ag'in, down in Robeson
County dis time ; en he kep' dat sellin'
business up fer five year er mo'. Henry
28 The Cojijure Woman
nebber say nuffin 'bout de goopher ter
his noo marsters, 'caze he know he gwine
ter be tuk good keer uv de nex' winter,
w'en Mars Dugal' buy him back. En
Mars Dugal' made /*nuff money off' n
Henry ter buy anudder plantation ober
on Beaver Crick.
" But 'long 'bout de een' er dat five
year dey come a stranger ter stop at de
plantation. De fus' day he 'uz dere he
went out wid Mars Dugal' en spent all
de mawnin' lookin' ober de vimya'd, en
after dinner dey spent all de evenin' play-
in' kya'ds. De niggers soon 'skiver' dat
he wuz a Yankee, en dat he come down
ter Norf C'lina fer ter I'arn de w'ite folks
how to raise grapes en make wine. He
promus Mars Dugal' he c'd make de
grapevimes b'ar twice't ez many grapes,
en dat de noo winepress he wuz a-sell-
in' would make mo' d'n twice't ez many
gallons er wine. En ole Mars Dugal*
des drunk it all in, des 'peared ter be
The Goophered Grapevine 29
bewitch' wid dat Yankee. Wen de
darkies see dat Yankee runnin' 'roun'
de vimya'd en diggin' under de grape-
vimes, dey shuk dere heads, en 'lowed dat
dey feared Mars Dugal' losin' his min'.
Mars Dugal' had all de dirt dug away
fum under de roots er all de scupper-
non' vimes, an' let 'em stan' dat away fer
a week er mo'. Den dat Yankee made
de niggers fix up a mixtry er lime en
ashes en manyo, en po' it 'roun' de roots
er de grapevimes. Den he 'vise Mars
Dugal' fer ter trim de vimes close't, en
Mars Dugal' tuck 'n done eve'ything
de Yankee tole him ter do. Dyoin' all
er dis time, mind yer, dis yer Yankee
wuz libbin' off' n de fat er de Ian', at de
big house, en playin' kya'ds wid Mars
Dugal' eve'y night ; en dey say Mars
Dugal' los' mo'n a thousan' dollars dyoin'
er de week dat Yankee wuz a-ruinin' de
"Wen de sap ris nex' spring, ole
30 The Conjure Woman
Henry 'n'inted his head ez yuzhal, en
his ha'r 'mence' ter grow des de same
ez it done eve'y year. De scuppernon'
vimes growed monst's fas', en de leaves
wuz greener en thicker dan dey eber
be'n dyoin' my rememb'ance ; en Hen-
ry's ha'r growed out thicker dan eber,
en he 'peared ter git younger 'n younger,
en soopler 'n soopler; en seein' ez he
wuz sho't er ban's dat spring, havin' tuk
in consid'able noo groun', Mars Dugal'
'eluded he would n' sell Henry 'tel he
git de crap in en de cotton chop'. So
he kep' Henry on de plantation.
"But 'long 'bout time fer de grapes
ter come on de scuppernon' vimes, dey
'peared ter come a change ober 'em ;
de leaves withered en swivel' up, en de
young grapes turn' yaller, en bimeby
eve'ybody on de plantation could see
dat de whole vimya'd wuz dyin'. Mars
Dugal' tuk'n water de vimes en done
all he could, but 't wa'n' no use : dat
The Goophered Grapevine 31
Yankee had done bus' de watermillyum.
One time de vimes picked up a bit, en
Mars Dugal' 'lowed dey wuz gwine ter
come out ag'in ; but dat Yankee done
dug too close under de roots, en prune
de branches too close ter de vime, en all
dat lime en ashes done burn' de life
out'n de vimes, en dey des kep' a-with'in'
"All dis time de goopher wuz a-wuk-
kin'. When de vimes sta'ted ter wither,
Henry 'mence' ter complain er his rheu-
matiz ; en when de leaves begin ter dry
up, his ha'r 'mence' ter drap out. When
de vimes fresh' up a bit, Henry 'd git
peart ag'in, en when de vimes wither'
ag'in, Henry 'd git ole ag'in, en des kep'
gittin' mo' en mo' fitten fer nuffin ; he
des pined away, en pined away, en
fine'ly tuk ter his cabin ; en when de
big vime whar he got de sap ter 'n'int
his head withered en turned yaller en
died, Henry died too, — des went out 1
32 The Conjure Woman
sorter like a cannel. Day did n't 'pear
ter be nuffin de matter wid 'im, 'cep'n' de
rheumatiz, but his strenk des dwinel'
away 'tel he did n' hab ernuff lef ter
draw his bref, De goopher had got de
under holt, en th'owed Henry dat time
fer good en all.
" Mars Dugal' tuk on might'ly 'bout
losin' his vimes en his nigger in de same
year ; en he swo' dat ef he could git holt
er dat Yankee he 'd wear 'im ter a fraz-
zle, en den chaw up de frazzle ; en he 'd
done it, too, for Mars Dugal' 'uz a mon-
st'us brash man w'en he once git started.
He sot de vimya'd out ober ag'in, but
it wuz th'ee er fo' year befo' de vimes
got ter b'arin' any scuppernon's.
" W'en de wah broke out, Mars Du-
gal' raise' a comp'ny, en went off ter
fight de Yankees. He say he wuz
mighty glad dat wah come, en he des
want ter kill a Yankee fer eve'y dollar
he los' 'long er dat grape-raisin' Yankee.
The Goophered Grapevine 33
En I 'spec' he would 'a' done it, too, ef
de Yankees had n' s'picioned sump'n,
en killed him fus'. Atter de s'render
ole miss move' ter town, de niggers all
scattered 'way fum de plantation, en de
vimya'd ain' be'n cultervated sence."
" Is that story true ? " asked Annie
doubtfully, but seriously, as the old man
concluded his narrative.
" It 's des ez true ez I 'm a-settin'
here, miss. Dey 's a easy way ter prove
it : I kin lead de way right ter Henry's
grave ober yander in de plantation bury-
in'-groun'. En I tell yer w'at, marster,
I would n' 'vise you to buy dis yer ole
vimya'd, 'caze de goopher 's on it yit, en
dey ain' no tellin' w'en it 's gwine ter
"But I thought you said all the old
" Dey did 'pear ter die, but a few un
'em come out ag'in, en is mixed in 'mongs'
de yuthers. I ain' skeered ter eat de
34 The Conjure Woman
grapes, 'caze I knows de old vimes fum
de noo ones ; but wid strangers day
ain' no tellin' w'at mought happen. I
would n' 'vise yer ter buy dis vimya'd."
I bought the vineyard, nevertheless,
and it has been for a long time in a
thriving condition, and is often referred
to by the local press as a striking illus-
tration of the opportunities open to
Northern capital in the development of
Southern industries. The luscious scup-
pernong holds first rank among our
grapes, though we cultivate a great many
other varieties, and our income from
grapes packed and shipped to the North-
ern markets is quite considerable. I have
not noticed any developments of the
goopher in the vineyard, although I have
a mild suspicion that our colored assist-
ants do not suffer from want of grapes
during the season.
I found, when I bought the vineyard,
that Uncle Julius had occupied a cabin
The Goophered Grapevine 35
on the place for many years, and derived
a respectable revenue from the product
of the neglected grapevines. This,
doubtless, accounted for his advice to
me not to buy the vineyard, though
whether it inspired the goopher story I
am unable to state. I believe, however,
that the wages I paid him for his ser-
vices as coachman, for I gave him em-
ployment in that capacity, were more
than an equivalent for anything he lost
by the sale of the vineyard.
On the northeast corner of my vine-
yard in central North Carolina, and
fronting on the Lumberton plank-road,
there stood a small frame house, of the
simplest construction. It was built of
pine lumber, and contained but one
room, to which one window gave light
and one door admission. Its weather-
beaten sides revealed a virgin innocence
of paint. Against one end of the house,
and occupying half its width, there stood
a huge brick chimney : the crumbling
mortar had left large cracks between the
bricks ; the bricks themselves had be-
gun to scale off in large flakes, leaving
the chimney sprinkled with unsightly
blotches. These evidences of decay
were but partially concealed by a creep-
Pd Sandy 37
ing vine, which extended its slender
branches hither and thither in an am-
bitious but futile attempt to cover the
whole chimney. The wooden shutter,
which had once protected the unglazed
window, had fallen from its hinges, and
lay rotting in the rank grass and jimson-
weeds beneath. This building, I learned
when I bought the place, had been used
as a schoolhouse for several years prior
to the breaking out of the war, since
which time it had remained unoccupied,
save when some stray cow or vagrant
hog had sought shelter within its walls
from the chill rains and nipping winds
One day my wife requested me to
build her ^ new kitchen. The house
erected by us, when we first came to live
upon the vineyard, contained a very con-
veniently arranged kitchen ; but for
some occult reason my wife wanted a
kitchen in the back yard, apart from the
38 The Conjure Woman
dwelling-house, after the usual Southern
fashion. Of course I had to build it.
To save expense, I decided to tear
down the old schoolhouse, and use the
lumber, which was in a good state of
preservation, in the construction of the
new kitchen. Before demolishing the
old house, however, I made an estimate
of the amount of material contained in
it, and found that I would have to buy
several hundred feet of lumber addi-
tional, in order to build the new kitchen
according to my wife's plan.
One morning old Julius McAdoo, our
colored coachman, harnessed the gray
mare to the rockaway, and drove my
wife and me over to the sawmill from
which I meant to order the new lumber.
We drove down the long lane which led
from our house to the plank-road ; follow-
ing the plank-road for about a mile, we
turned into a road running through the
forest and across the swamp to the saw-
Pd Safidy 39
mill beyond. Our carriage jolted over
the half-rotted corduroy road which trav-
ersed the swamp, and then climbed the
long hill leading to the sawmill. When
we reached the mill, the foreman had
gone over to a neighboring farmhouse,
probably to smoke or gossip, and we
were compelled to await his return be-
fore we could transact our business.
We remained seated in the carriage, a
few rods from the mill, and watched the
leisurely movements of the mill-hands.
We had not waited long before a huge
pine log was placed in position, the
machinery of the mill was set in mo-
tion, and the circular saw began to eat
its way through the log, with a loud
whir which resounded throughout the
vicinity of the mill. The sound rose
and fell in a sort of rhythmic cadence,
which, heard from where we sat, was
not unpleasing, and not loud enough to
prevent conversation. When the saw
40 The Coftjure Woman
started on its second journey through
the log, Julius observed, in a lugubrious
tone, and with a perceptible shudder : —
" Ugh ! but dat des do cuddle my
blood ! "
"What's the matter. Uncle Julius ? "
inquired my wife, who is of a very sym-
pathetic turn of mind. " Does the noise
affect your nerves ? "
"No, Mis' Annie," replied the old
man, with emotion, " I ain' narvous ; but
dat saw, a-cuttin' en grindin' thoo dat
stick er timber, en moanin', en groanin,'
en sweekin', kyars my 'memb'ance back
ter ole times, en 'min's me er po' Sandy."
The pathetic intonation with which he
lengthened out the " po' Sandy " touched
a responsive chord in our own hearts.
" And who was poor Sandy .'' " asked
my wife, who takes a deep interest in
the stories of plantation life which she
hears from the lips of the older colored
people. Some of these stories are
Pd Sandy 41
quaintly humorous ; others wildly ex-
travagant, revealing the Oriental cast of
the negro's imagination ; while others,
poured freely into the sympathetic ear
of a Northern-bred woman, disclose
many a tragic incident of the darker
side of slavery.
"Sandy," said Julius, in reply to my
wife's question, " was a nigger w'at use-
ter b'long ter ole Mars Marrabo Mc-
Swayne. Mars Marrabo's place wuz on
de yuther side'n de swamp, right nex' ter
yo' place. Sandy wuz a monst'us good
nigger, en could do so many things
erbout a plantation, en alluz 'ten' ter his
wuk so well, dat w'en Mars Marrabo's
chilluns growed up en married off, dey
all un 'em wanted dey daddy fer ter gin
'em Sandy fer a weddin' present. But
Mars Marrabo knowed de res' would n'
be satisfied ef he gin Sandy ter a'er one
un 'em ; so w'en dey wuz all done mar-
ried, he fix it by 'lowin' one er his chil-
42 The Conjure Woman
luns ter take Sandy fer a mont' er so, en
den ernudder for a mont' er so, en so on
dat erway tel dey had all had 'im de
same lenk er time ; en den dey would
all take him roun' ag'in, 'cep'n' oncet in
a w'ile w'en Mars Marrabo would len'
'im ter some er his yuther kinfolks 'roun'
de country, w'en dey wuz short er han's;
tel bimeby it go so Sandy did n' hardly
knowed whar he wuz gwine ter stay fum
one week's een' ter de yuther.
" One time w'en Sandy wuz lent out
ez yushal, a spekilater come erlong wid
a lot er niggers, en Mars Marrabo swap*
Sandy's wife off fer a noo 'oman. W'en
Sandy come back. Mars Marrabo gin 'im
a dollar, en 'lowed he wuz monst'us
sorry fer ter break up de fambly, but de
spekilater had gin 'im big boot, en times
wuz hard en money skase, en so he
wuz bleedst ter make de trade, Sandy
tuk on some 'bout losin' his wife, but he
soon seed dey want no use cryin' ober
Pd Sandy 43
spilt merlasses ; en bein' ez he lacked de
looks er de noo 'oman, he tuk up wid
her atter she 'd be'n on de plantation a
mont' er so.
" Sandy en his noo wife got on mighty
well tergedder, en de niggers all 'mence'
ter talk about how lovin' dey wuz. Wen
Tenie wuz tuk sick oncet, Sandy useter
set up all night wid 'er, en den go ter
wuk in de mawnin' des lack he had his
reg'lar sleep ; en Tenie would 'a' done
anythin' in de worl' for her Sandy.
" Sandy en Tenie had n' be'n libbin'
tergedder fer mo' d'n two mont's befo'
Mars Marrabo's old uncle, w'at libbed
down in Robeson County, sent up ter
fin' out ef Mars Marrabo could n' len'
'im er hire 'im a good han' fer a mont'
er so. Sandy's marster wuz one er dese
yer easy-gwine folks w'at wanter please
eve'ybody, en he says yas, he could len'
'im Sandy. En Mars Marrabo tol'
Sandy fer ter git ready ter go down ter
44 The Conjure Woman
Robeson nex' day, fer ter stay a mont'
" It wuz monst'us hard on Sandy fer
ter take 'im 'way fum Tenie. It wuz so
fur down ter Robeson dat he did n' hab
no chance er comin' back ter see her tel
de time wuz up ; he would n' 'a' mine
comin' ten er fifteen mile at night ter
see Tenie, but Mars Marrabo's uncle's
plantation wuz mo' d'n forty mile off.
Sandy wuz mighty sad en cas' down
atter w'at Mars Marrabo tol' 'im, en he
says ter Tenie, sezee : ■ —
" * I 'm gittin' monst'us ti'ed er dish
yer gwine roun' so much. Here I is lent
ter Mars Jeems dis mont', en I got ter
do so-en-so ; en ter Mars Archie de nex'
mont', en I got ter do so-en-so ; den I
got ter go ter Miss Jinnie's : en hit 's
Sandy dis en Sandy dat, en Sandy yer
en Sandy dere, tel it 'pears ter me I ain'
got no home, ner no marster, ner no
mistiss, ner no nuffin. I can't eben keep
Pd Sandy 45
a wife : my yuther ole 'oman wuz sol'
away widout my gittin' a chance fer ter
tell her good-by ; en now I got ter go off
en leab you, Tenie, en I dunno whe'r
I 'm eber gwine ter see you ag'in er no.
I wisht I wuz a tree, er a stump, er a
rock, er sump'n w'at could stay on de
plantation fer a w'ile.' - —
*' Atter Sandy got thoo talkin', Tenie
didn' say naer word, but des sot dere
by de fier, studyin' en studyin'. Bimeby
she up'n' says : —
" ' Sandy, is I eber tol' you I wuz a
cunjuh 'oman ? '
" Co'se Sandy hadn' nebber dremp'
er nuffin lack dat, en he made a great
'miration w'en he hear w'at Tenie say.
Bimeby Tenie went on : —
" ' I ain' goophered nobody, ner done
no cunjuh wuk, fer fifteen year er mo' ;
en w'en I got religion I made up my
mine I would n' wuk no mo' goopher.
But dey is some things I doan b'lieve
46 The Conjure Woman
it 's no sin fer ter do ; en ef you doan
wanter be sent roun' fum pillar ter pos',
en ef you doan wanter go down ter
Robeson, I kin fix things so you won't
haf ter. Ef you '11 des say de word, I
kin turn you ter w'ateber you wanter be,
en you kin stay right whar you wanter,
ez long ez you mineter.'
" Sandy say he doan keer ; he 's will-
in' fer ter do anythin' fer ter stay close
ter Tenie. Den Tenie ax 'im ef he doan
wanter be turnt inter a rabbit.
" Sandy say, ' No, de dogs mought git
" ' Shill I turn you ter a wolf ? ' sez
" ' No, eve'ybody 's skeered er a wolf,
en I doan want nobody ter be skeered
" ' Shill I turn you ter a mawkin'-
" * No, a hawk mought ketch me. I
wanter be turnt inter sump'n w'at '11
stay in one place.'
Pd Sandy 47
" ' I kin turn you ter a tree,' sez
Tenie. ' You won't hab no mouf ner
years, but I kin turn you back oncet in
a w'ile, so you kin git sump'n ter eat,
en hear w'at 's gwine on.'
*' Well, Sandy say dat '11 do. En so
Tenie tuk 'im down by de aidge er de
swamp, not fur fum de quarters, en turnt
'im inter a big pine-tree, en sot 'im out
'mongs' some yuther trees. En de nex'
mawnin', ez some er de fiel' ban's wuz
gwine long dere, dey seed a tree w'at
dey did n' 'member er habbin' seed befo';
it wuz monst'us quare, en dey wuz bleedst
ter 'low dat dey had n' 'membered right,
er e'se one er de saplin's had be'n grow-
in' monst'us fas'.
" Wen Mars Marrabo 'skiver' dat
Sandy wuz gone, he 'lowed Sandy had
runned away. He got de dogs out, but
de las' place dey could track Sandy ter
wuz de foot er dat pine-tree. En dere
de dogs stood en barked, en bayed, en
48 The Conjure Woman
pawed at de tree, en tried ter climb up
on it ; en w'en dey wuz tuk roun' thoo
de swamp ter look fer de scent, dey
broke loose en made fer dat tree ag'in.
It wuz de beatenis' thing de w'ite folks
eber hearn of, en Mars Marrabo 'lowed
dat Sandy must 'a' dim' up on de tree
en jump' off on a mule er sump'n, en rid
fur ernuff fer ter spile de scent. Mars
Marrabo wanted ter 'cuse some er de
yuther niggers er heppin' Sandy off, but
dey all 'nied it ter de las' ; en eve'ybody
knowed Tenie sot too much sto' by
Sandy fer ter he'p 'im run away whar
she could n' nebber see 'im no mo'.
" W'en Sandy had be'n gone long
ernuff fer folks ter think he done got
clean away, Tenie useter go down ter
de woods at night en turn 'im back, en
den dey 'd slip up ter de cabin en set by
de fire en talk. But dey ha' ter be mon-
st'us keerful, er e'se somebody would 'a'
seed 'em, en dat would 'a' spile' de whole
Pd Sandy 49
thing ; so Tenie alluz turnt Sandy back
in de mawnin' early, befo' anybody wuz
"But Sandy did n' git erlo'ng widout
his trials en tribberlations. One day a
woodpecker come erlong en 'mence' ter
peck at de tree ; en de nex' time Sandy
wuz turnt back he had a little roun' hole
in his arm, des lack a sharp stick be'n
stuck in it. Atter dat Tenie sot a spar-
rer-hawk fer ter watch de tree ; en w'en
de woodpecker come erlong nex' mawnin'
fer ter finish his nes', he got gobble' up
mos"fo' he stuck his bill in de bark.
"Nudder time. Mars Marrabo sent a
nigger out in de woods fer ter chop tup-
pentime boxes. De man chop a box in
dish yer tree, en hack' de bark up two
er th'ee feet, fer ter let de tuppentime
run. De nex' time Sandy wuz turnt
back he had a big skyar on his lef leg,
des lack it be'n skunt ; en it tuk Tenie
nigh 'bout all night fer ter fix a mixtry
50 The Conjure Woman
ter kyo it up. Atter dat, Tenie sot a
hawnet fer ter watch de tree ; en w'en
de nigger come back ag'in fer ter cut
ernudder box on de yuther side'n de
tree, de hawnet stung 'im so hard dat
de ax slip en cut his foot nigh 'bout
off. '- ^^■"•
" W'en Tenie see so many things hap-
penin' ter de tree, she 'eluded she 'd ha'
ter turn Sandy ter sump'n e'se ; en atter
studyin' de matter ober, en talkin' wid
Sandy one ebenin', she made up her
mine fer ter fix up a goopher mixtry
w'at would turn herse'f en Sandy ter
foxes, er sump'n, so dey could run away
en go some'rs whar dey could be free
en lib lack w'ite folks.
" But dey ain' no tellin' w'at 's gwine
ter happen in dis worl'. Tenie had got
de night sot fer her en Sandy ter run
away, w'en dat ve'y day one er Mars
Marrabo's sons rid up ter de big house
in his buggy, en say his wife wuz men-
Pd Sandy 51
st'us sick, en he want his mammy ter
len' 'im a 'oman fer ter nuss his wife.
Tenie's mistiss say sen' Tenie ; she wuz
a good nuss. Young mars wuz in a tar-
rible hurry fer ter git back home. Tenie
wuz washin' at de big house dat day, en
her mistiss say she should go right 'long
wid her young marster. Tenie tried
ter make some 'scuse fer ter git away
en hide 'tel night, w'en she would have
eve'ything fix' up fer her en Sandy ; she
say she wanter go ter her cabin fer ter
git her bonnet. Her mistiss say it doan
matter 'bout de bonnet ; her head-hank-
cher wuz good ernuff. Den Tenie say
she wanter git her bes' frock ; her mis-
tiss say no, she doan need no mo' frock,
en w'en dat one got dirty she could git
a clean one whar she wuz gwine. So
Tenie had ter git in de buggy en go
'long wid young Mars Dunkin ter his
plantation, w'ich wuz mo' d'n twenty
mile away ; en dey wa'n't no chance er
52 The Conjure Woman
her seein' Sandy no mo' 'tel she come
back home. De po' gal felt monst'us
bad 'bout de way things wuz gwine on,
en she knowed Sandy mus' be a won-
d'rin' why she did n' come en turn 'im
back no mo'.
"Wiles Tenie wuz away nussin'
young Mars Dunkin's wife, Mars Mar-
rabo tuk a notion fer ter bull' 'im a
noo kitchen ; en bein' ez he had lots er
timber on his place, he begun ter look
'roun' fer a tree ter hab de lumber sawed
out'n. En I dunno how it come to be
so, but he happen fer ter hit on de ve'y
tree w'at Sandy wuz turnt inter. Tenie
wuz gone, en dey wa'n't nobody ner
nuffin fer ter watch de tree.
" De two men w'at cut de tree down
say dey nebber had sech a time wid a
tree befo' : dey axes would glansh off,
en did n' 'pear ter make no progress
thoo de wood ; en of all de creakin', en
shakin', en wobblin' you eber see, dat
Pd Sandy 53
tree done it w'en it commence' ter fall.
It wuz de beatenis' thing !
"W'en dey got de tree all trim' up,
dey chain it up ter a timber waggin,
en start fer de sawmill. But dey had a
hard time gittin' de log dere : fus' dey
got stuck in de mud w'en dey wuz
gwine crosst de swamp, en it wuz two
er th'ee hours befo' dey could git out.
W'en dey start' on ag'in, de chain kep'
a-comin' loose, en dey had ter keep
a-stoppin' en a-stoppin' fer ter hitch de
log up ag'in. W'en dey commence' ter
climb de hill ter de sawmill, de log
broke loose, en roll down de hill en in
'mongs' de trees, en hit tuk nigh 'bout
half a day mo' ter git it haul' up ter de
" De nex' mawnin' after de day de
tree wuz haul' ter de sawmill, Tenie
come home. W'en she got back ter her
cabin, de fus' thing she done wuz ter
run down ter de woods en see how Sandy
54 The Conjure Woman
wuz gittin' on. Wen she seed de stump
standin' dere, wid de sap runnin' out'n
it, en de limbs layin' scattered roun',
she nigh 'bout went out'n her min'. She
run ter her cabin, en got her goopher
mixtry, en den follered de track er de
timber waggin ter de sawmill. She
knowed Sandy could n' lib mo' d'n a min-
ute er so ef she turnt him back, fer he
wuz all chop' up so he 'd 'a' be'n bleedst
ter die. But she wanted ter turn 'im
back long ernuff fer ter 'splain ter 'im
dat she had n' went off a-purpose, en lef
'im ter be chop' down en sawed up.
She did n' want Sandy ter die wid no
hard feelin's to'ds her.
" De ban's at de sawmill had des got
de big log on de kerridge, en wuz start-
in' up de saw, w'en dey seed a 'oman
runnin' up de hill, all out er bref, cryin'
en gwine on des lack she wuz plumb
'stracted. It wuz Tenie ; she come right
inter de mill, en th'owed herse'f on de
Pd Sandy 55
log, right in front er de saw, a-hollerin'
en cryin' ter her Sandy ter fergib her,
en not ter think hard er her, fer it wa'n't
no fault er hern. Den Tenie 'membered
de tree did n' hab no years, en she wuz
gittin' ready fer ter wuk her goopher
mixtry so ez ter turn Sandy back, w'en
de mill-hands kotch holt er her en tied
her arms wid a rope, en fasten' her to
one er de posts in de sawmill ; en den
dey started de saw up ag'in, en cut de
log up inter bo'ds en scantlin's right
befo' her eyes. But it wuz mighty hard
wuk ; fer of all de sweekin', en moanin',
en groanin', dat log done it w'iles de
saw wuz a-cuttin' thoo it. De saw wuz
one er dese yer ole-timey, up-en-down
saws, en hit tuk longer dem days ter
saw a log 'en it do now. Dey greased
de saw, but dat did n' stop de fuss ; hit
kep' right on, tel fin'ly dey got de log
all sawed up.
"W'en de oberseah w'at run de saw-
56 The Cottjure Woman
mill come fum breakfas', de ban's up en
tell bim 'bout de crazy 'oman — ez dey
s'posed sbe wuz — w'at bad come run-
nin' in de sawmill, a-bollerin' en gwine
on, en tried ter tb'ow berse'f befo' de
saw. En de oberseab sent two er tb'ee
er de ban's fer ter take Tenie back ter
her marster's plantation.
" Tenie 'peared ter be out'n her min'
fer a long time, en her marster ha' ter
lock her up in de smoke-'ouse 'tel sbe
got ober her spells. Mars Marrabo wuz
monst'us mad, en hit would 'a' made yo'
flesh crawl fer ter hear him cuss, 'caze be
say de spekilater w'at he got Tenie fum
had fooled 'im by wukkin' a crazy 'oman
off on bim. Wiles Tenie wuz lock up
in de smoke-'ouse. Mars Marrabo tuk 'n'
haul de lumber fum de sawmill, en put
up bis noo kitchen.
"Wen Tenie got quiet' down, so she
could be 'lowed ter go 'roun' de planta-
tion, sbe up'n' tole her marster all erbout
Pd Sandy 57
Sandy en de pine-tree ; en w'en Mars
Marrabo hearn it, he 'lowed she wuz de
wuss 'stracted nigger he eber hearn of.
He didn' know w'at ter do wid Tenie :
fus' he thought he 'd put her in de po'-
house ; but fin'ly, seein' ez she did n'
do no harm ter nobody ner nuffin, but
des went 'roun' moanin', en groanin', en
shakin' her head, he 'eluded ter let her
stay on de plantation en nuss de little
nigger chilluns w'en dey mammies wuz
ter wuk in de cotton-fiel'.
" De noo kitchen Mars Marrabo bull'
wuz n' much use, fer it had n' be'n put
up long befo' de niggers 'mence' ter no-
tice quare things erbout it. Dey could
hear sump'n moanin' en groanin' 'bout
de kitchen in de night-time, en w'en de
win' would blow dey could hear sump'n
a-hollerin' en sweekin' lack it wuz in
great pain en sufferin'. En it got so
atter a w'ile dat it wuz all Mars Mar-
rabo's wife could do ter git a 'oman ter
58 The Conjtire Woman
stay in de kitchen in de daytime long
ernuff ter do de cookin' ; en dey wa'n't
naer nigger on de plantation w'at would n'
rudder take forty dan ter go 'bout dat
kitchen atter dark, — dat is, 'cep'n' Te-
nie ; she did n' 'pear ter min' de ha'nts.
She useter slip 'roun' at night, en set
on de kitchen steps, en lean up agin de
do'-jamb, en run on ter herse'f wid some
kine er foolishness w'at nobody could n'
make out ; fer Mars Marrabo had th'eat-
en' ter sen' her off'n de plantation ef
she say anything ter any er de yuther
niggers 'bout de pine-tree. But some-
how er 'nudder de niggers foun' out all
erbout it, en dey all knowed de kitchen
wuz ha'nted by Sandy's sperrit. En
bimeby hit got so Mars Marrabo's wife
herse'f wuz skeered ter go out in de
yard atter dark,
" Wen it come ter dat, Mars Marrabo
tuk en to' de kitchen down, en use' de
lumber fer ter buil' dat ole school'ouse
Pd Sandy 59
w'at you er talkin' 'bout pullin' down.
De school'Duse wuz n' use' 'cep'n' in de
daytime, en on dark nights folks gwine
'long de road would hear quare soun's
en see quare things. Po' ole Tenie use-
ter go down dere at night, en wander
'roun' de school'ouse ; en de niggers all
'lowed she went fer ter talk wid Sandy's
sperrit. En one winter mawnin', w'en
one er de boys went ter school early fer
ter start de fire, w'at should he fin' but
po' ole Tenie, layin' on de flo', stiff, en
col', en dead. Dere did n' 'pear ter be
nuffin pertickler de matter wid her, —
she had des grieve' herse'f ter def fer
her Sandy. Mars Marrabo did n' shed
no tears. He thought Tenie wuz crazy,
en dey wa'n't no tellin' w'at she mought
do nex' ; en dey ain' much room in dis
worl' fer crazy w'ite folks, let 'lone a
" Hit wa'n't long atter dat befo' Mars
Marrabo sol' a piece er his track er Ian'
6o The Co7ijiire Woman
ter Mars Dugal' McAdoo, — my ole
marster, — en dat 's how de ole school-
'ouse happen to be on yo' place. Wen
de wah broke out, de school stop', en de
ole school'ouse be'n stannin' empty ever
sence, — dat is, 'cep'n' fer de ha'nts.
En folks sez dat de ole school'ouse, er
any yuther house w'at got any er dat
lumber in it w'at wuz sawed out'n de
tree w'at Sandy wuz turnt inter, is gwine
ter be ha'nted tel de las' piece er plank
is rotted en crumble' inter dus'."
Annie had listened to this gruesome
narrative with strained attention.
"What a system it was," she ex-
claimed, when Julius had finished,
" under which such things were pos-
sible ! "
" What things .-' " I asked, in amaze-
ment. "Are you seriously considering
the possibility of a man's being turned
into a tree.''"
"Oh, no," she replied quickly, "not
Pd Sandy 6i
that ; " and then she murmured absently,
and with a dim look in her fine eyes,
" Poor Tenie ! "
We ordered the lumber, and returned
home. That night, after we had gone
to bed, and my wife had to all appear-
ances been sound asleep for half an
hour, she startled me out of an incipient
doze by exclaiming suddenly, —
" John, I don't believe I want my new
kitchen built out of the lumber in that
" You would n't for a moment allow
yourself," I replied, with some asperity,
"to be influenced by that absurdly im-
possible yarn which Julius was spinning
to-day ? "
" I know the story is absurd," she
replied dreamily, "and I am not so silly
as to believe it. But I don't think I
should ever be able to take any plea-
sure in that kitchen if it were built out
of that lumber. Besides, I think the
62 TJie Conjure Woman
kitchen would look better and last
longer if the lumber were all new."
Of course she had her way. I bought
the new lumber, though not without
grumbling. A week or two later I was
called away from home on business.
On my return, after an absence of sev-
eral days, my wife remarked to me, —
" John, there has been a split in the
Sandy Run Colored Baptist Church, on
the temperance question. About half
the members have come out from the
main body, and set up for themselves.
Uncle Julius is one of the seceders, and
he came to me yesterday and asked if
they might not hold their meetings in
the old schoolhouse for the present."
" I hope you did n't let the old rascal
have it," I returned, with some warmth.
I had just received a bill for the new
lumber I had bought.
" Well," she replied, " I could n't re-
fuse him the use of the house for so
good a purpose."
Pd Sandy 63
" And I '11 venture to say," I contin-
ued, " that you subscribed something
toward the support of the new church ? "
She did not attempt to deny it.
"What are they going to do about
the ghost ? " I asked, somewhat curious
to know how Julius would get around
" Oh," replied Annie, " Uncle Julius
says that ghosts never disturb religious
worship, but that if Sandy's spirit should
happen to stray into meeting by mistake,
no doubt the preaching would do it
MARS JEEMS'S NIGHTMARE
We found old Julius very useful when
we moved to our new residence. He
had a thorough knowledge of the neigh-
borhood, was familiar with the roads
and the watercourses, knew the qualities
of the various soils and what they would
produce, and where the best hunting
and fishing were to be had. He was a
marvelous hand in the management of
horses and dogs, with whose mental
processes he manifested a greater famil-
iarity than mere use would seem to ac-
count for, though it was doubtless due
to the simplicity of a life that had kept
him close to nature. Toward my tract
of land and the things that were on it
— the creeks, the swamps, the hills, the
meadows, the stones, the trees — he
Mars Jeemss Nightmare 65
maintained a peculiar personal attitude,
that might be called predial rather than
proprietary. He had been accustomed,
until long after middle life, to look upon
himself as the property of another.
When this relation was no longer possi-
ble, owing to the war, and to his mas-
ter's death and the dispersion of the
family, he had been unable to break off
entirely the mental habits of a lifetime,
but had attached himself to the old
plantation, of which he seemed to con-
sider himself an appurtenance. We
found him useful in many ways and
entertaining in others, and my wife and
I took quite a fancy to him.
Shortly after we became established
in our home on the sand-hills, Julius
brought up to the house one day a
colored boy of about seventeen, whom
he introduced as his grandson, and for
whom he solicited employment. I was
not favorably impressed by the youth's
66 The Conjtire Woman
appearance, — quite the contrary, in fact ;
but mainly to please the old man I
hired Tom — his name was Tom — to
help about the stables, weed the garden,
cut wood and bring water, and in gen-
eral to make himself useful about the
outdoor work of the household.
My first impression of Tom proved to
be correct. He turned out to be very
trifling, and I was much annoyed by his
laziness, his carelessness, and his ap-
parent lack of any sense of responsibility.
I kept him longer than I should, on
Julius's account, hoping that he might
improve ; but he seemed to grow worse
instead of better, and when I finally
reached the limit of my patience, I dis-
" I am sorry, Julius," I said to the old
man; " I should have liked to oblige you
by keeping him ; but I can't stand Tom
any longer. He is absolutely untrust-
Mars Jeems s Nightmare 6y
"Yas, suh," replied Julius, with a
deep sigh and a long shake of the head,
" I knows he ain' much account, en dey
ain' much 'pen'ence ter be put on 'im.
But I wuz hopin' dat you mought make
some 'lowance fuh a' ign'ant young nig-
ger, suh, en gib 'im one mo' chance."
But I had hardened my heart. I had
always been too easily imposed upon,
and had suffered too much from this
weakness. I determined to be firm as
a rock in this instance.
" No, Julius," I rejoined decidedly,
" it is impossible. I gave him more than
a fair trial, and he simply won't do."
When my wife and I set out for our
drive in the cool of the evening, — after-
noon is " evening " in Southern parlance,
— one of the servants put into the rock-
away two large earthenware jugs. Our
drive was to be down through the swamp
to the mineral spring at the foot of the
sand-hills beyond. The water of this
68 The Co7ijure Woman
spring was strongly impregnated with
sulphur and iron, and, while not particu-
larly agreeable of smell or taste, was
used by us, in moderation, for sanitary
When we reached the spring, we found
a man engaged in cleaning it out. In
answer to an inquiry he said that if we
would wait five or ten minutes, his task
would be finished and the spring in such
condition that we could fill our jugs.
We might have driven on, and come
back by way of the spring, but there
was a bad stretch of road beyond, and
we concluded to remain where we were
until the spring should be ready. We
were in a cool and shady place. It was
often necessary to wait awhile in North
Carolina ; and our Northern energy had
not been entirely proof against the influ-
ences of climate and local custom.
While we sat there, a man came sud-
denly around a turn of the road ahead
Mars Jeemss Nightmare 69
of us. I recognized in him a neigh-
bor with whom I had exchanged formal
calls. He was driving a horse, appar-
ently a high-spirited creature, possess-
ing, so far as I could see at a glance,
the marks of good temper and good
breeding ; the gentleman, I had heard
it suggested, was slightly deficient in
both. The horse was rearing and plun-
ging, and the man was beating him
furiously with a buggy-whip. When he
saw us, he flushed a fiery red, and, as
he passed, held the reins with one hand,
at some risk to his safety, lifted his hat,
and bowed somewhat constrainedly as
the horse darted by us, still panting and
snorting with fear.
" He looks as though he were ashamed
of himself," I observed.
" I 'm sure he ought to be," exclaimed
my wife indignantly. " I think there
is no worse sin and no more disgraceful
thing than cruelty."
/o TJie Conjure Woman
" I quite agree with you," I assented.
" A man w'at 'buses his hoss is gwine
ter be ha'd on de folks w'at wuks fer
'im," remarked Julius. "Ef young Mis-
tah McLean doan min', he '11 hab a bad
dream one er dese days, des lack 'is
grandaddy had way back yander, long
yeahs befo' de wah."
"What was it about Mr, McLean's
dream, Julius 1 " I asked. The man had
not yet finished cleaning the spring, and
we might as well put in time listening
to Julius as in any other way. We had
found some of his plantation tales quite
" Mars Jeems McLean," said Julius,
" wuz de grandaddy er dis yer gent'e-
man w'at is des gone by us beatin' his
hoss. He had a big plantation en a
heap er niggers. Mars Jeems wuz a
ha'd man, en monst'us stric' wid his
ban's. Eber sence he growed up he
nebber 'peared ter hab no feelin' fer no-
Mars Jeems^s Nightmare 7 1
body. Wen his daddy, ole Mars John
McLean, died, de plantation en all de
niggers fell ter young Mars Jeems. He
had be'n bad 'nuff befo', but it wa'n't
long atterwa'ds 'tel he got so dey wuz
no use in libbin' at all ef you ha' ter lib
roun' Mars Jeems. His niggers wuz
bleedzd ter slabe fum daylight ter da'k,
w'iles yuther folks's did n' hafter wuk
'cep'n' fum sun ter sun ; en dey did n'
git no mo' ter eat dan dey oughter, en
dat de coa'ses' kin'. Dey wa'n't 'lowed
ter sing, ner dance, ner play de banjo
w'en Mars Jeems wuz roun' de place ;
fer Mars Jeems say he would n' hab no
sech gwines-on, — said he bought his
ban's ter wuk, en not ter play, en w'en
night come dey mus' sleep en res', so
dey 'd be ready ter git up soon in de
mawnin' en go ter dey wuk fresh en
" Mars Jeems did n' 'low no co'tin' er
juneseyin' roun' his plantation, — said
72 The Conjure Woman
he wanted his niggers ter put dey min's
on dey wuk, en not be wastin' dey time
wid no sech foolis'ness. En he would n'
let his han's git married, — said he wuz
n' raisin' niggers, but wuz raisin' cot-
ton. En w'eneber any er de boys en
gals 'ud 'mence ter git sweet on one
ernudder, he 'd sell one er de yuther un
'em, er sen' 'em way down in Robeson
County ter his yuther plantation, whar
dey could n' nebber see one ernudder.
" Ef any er de niggers eber com-
plained, dey got fo'ty ; so co'se dey
did n' many un 'em complain. But dey
did n' lack it, des de same, en nobody
could n' blame 'em, fer dey had a ha'd
time. Mars Jeems did n' make no 'low-
ance fer nachul bawn laz'ness, ner sick-
ness, ner trouble in de min', ner nuffin ;
he wuz des gwine ter git so much wuk
outer eve'y han', er know de reason w'y.
" Dey wuz one time de niggers 'lowed,
fer a spell, dat Mars Jeems mought git
Mars Jee^ns s Nightmare y^
bettah. He tuk a lackin' ter Mars Mar-
rabo McSwayne's oldes' gal, Miss Lib-
bie, en useter go ober dere eve'y day
er eve'y ebenin', en folks said dey wuz
gwine ter git married sho'. But it 'pears
dat Miss Libbie beared 'bout de gwines-
on on Mars Jeems's plantation, en she des
'lowed she could n' trus' herse'f wid no
sech a man ; dat he mought git so useter
'busin' his niggers dat he 'd 'mence ter
'buse his wife atter he got useter habbin'
her roun' de house. So she 'clared she
wuz n' gwine ter hab nuffin mo' ter do
wid young Mars Jeems.
"De niggers wuz all monst'us sorry
w'en de match wuz bust' up, fer now
Mars Jeems got wusser 'n he wuz befo'
he stated sweethea'tin'. De time he
useter spen' co'tin' Miss Libbie he put
in findin' fault wid de niggers, en all his
bad feelin's 'ca'se Miss Libbie th'owed
'im ober he 'peared ter try ter wuk off
on de po' niggers.
74 The Co7ijtire Woman
" Wiles Mars Jeems wuz co'tin' Miss
Libbie, two er de ban's on de plantation
had got ter settin' a heap er sto' by one
ernudder. One un 'em wuz name' Solo-
mon, en de yuther wuz a 'oman w'at
wukked in de fiel' 'long er 'im — I fe'git
dat 'oman's name, but it doan 'mount
ter much in de tale nohow. Now, whu-
ther 'ca'se Mars Jeems wuz so tuk up
wid his own junesey dat he did n' paid
no 'tention fer a w'ile ter w'at wuz gwine
on 'twix' Solomon en his junesey, er
whuther his own co'tin' made 'im kin' er
easy on de co'tin' in de qua'ters, dey
ain' no tellin'. But dey 's one thing sho',
dat w'en Miss Libbie th'owed 'im ober,
he foun' out 'bout Solomon en de gal
monst'us quick, en gun Solomon fo'ty,
en sont de gal down ter de Robeson
County plantation, en tol' all de niggers
ef he ketch 'em at any mo' sech foolish-
ness, he wuz gwine ter skin 'em alibe en
tan dey hides befo' dey ve'y eyes. Co'se
Mars Jeems s Nightmare 75
he would n' 'a' done it, but he mought 'a'
made things wusser 'n dey wuz. So you
kin 'magine dey wa'n't much lub-makin'
in de qua'ters fer a long time.
" Mars Jeems useter go down ter de
yuther plantation sometimes fer a week
er mo', en so he had ter hab a oberseah
ter look atter his wuk w'iles he 'uz gone.
Mars Jeems's oberseah wuz a po' w'ite
man name' Nick Johnson, — de niggers
called 'im Mars Johnson ter his face, but
behin' his back dey useter call 'im Ole
Nick, en de name suited 'im ter a T.
He wuz wusser 'n Mars Jeems ever da'ed
ter be. Co'se de darkies did n' lack de
way Mars Jeems used 'em, but he wuz
de marster, en had a right ter do ez he
please' ; but dis yer Ole Nick wa'n't
nufifin but a po' buckrah, en all de nig-
gers 'spised 'im ez much ez dey hated
'im, fer he didn' own nobody, en wa'n't
no bettah 'n a nigger, fer in dem days
any 'spectable pusson would ruther be a
nigger dan a po' w'ite man.
']6 The Conjure Woman
" Now, atter Solomon's gal had be'n
sont away, he kep' feelin' mo' en mo'
bad erbout it, 'tel fin'lly he 'lowed he
wuz gwine ter see ef dey could n' be
sump'n done fer ter git 'er back, en ter
make Mars Jeems treat de darkies bet-
tah. So he tuk a peck er co'n out'n de
ba'n one night, en went ober ter see ole
Aun' Peggy, de free-nigger cunjuh 'oman
down by de Wim'l'ton Road.
" Aun' Peggy listen' ter 'is tale, en
ax' him some queshtuns, en den tol' 'im
she 'd wuk her roots, en see w'at dey 'd
say 'bout it, en ter-morrer night he sh'd
come back ag'in en fetch ernudder peck
er co'n, en den she 'd hab sump'n fer ter
" So Solomon went back de nex'
night, en sho' 'nuff, Aun' Peggy tol' 'im
w'at ter do. She gun 'im some stuff
w'at look' lack it be'n made by poundin'
up some roots en yarbs wid a pestle in a
Mars Jeems s Nightmare 77
" ' Dis yer stuff,' sez she, * is monst'us
pow'ful kin' er goopher. You take dis
home, en gin it ter de cook, ef you kin
trus' her, en tell her fer ter put it in yo'
marster's soup de fus' cloudy day he hab
okra soup fer dinnah. Min' you follers
" ' It ain' gwineter p'isen 'im, is it ? '
ax' Solomon, gittin' kin' er skeered ; fer
Solomon wuz a good man, en did n' want
ter do nobody no rale ha'm.
" * Oh, no,' sez ole Aun' Peggy, ' it 's
gwine ter do 'im good, but he '11 hab a
monst'us bad dream fus'. A mont' fum
now you come down heah en lemme
know hov/ de goopher is wukkin'. Fer
I ain' done much er dis kin' er cunj'in'
er late yeahs, en I has ter kinder keep
track un it ter see dat it doan 'complish
no mo' d'n I 'lows fer it ter do. En I
has ter be kinder keerful 'bout cunj'in'
w'ite folks ; so be sho' en lemme know,
w'ateber you do, des w'at is gwine on
roun' de plantation.'
78 The Co7ijure Woman
" So Solomon say all right, en tuk de
goopher mixtry up ter de big house en
gun it ter de cook, en tol' her fer ter
put it in Mars Jeems's soup de fus'
cloudy day she hab okra soup far din-
nah. It happen' dat de ve'y nex' day
wuz a cloudy day, en so de cook made
okra soup fer Mars Jeems's dinnah, en
put de powder Solomon gun her inter
de soup, en made de soup rale good, so
Mars Jeems eat a whole lot of it en
'peared ter enjoy it.
" De nex' mawnin' Mars Jeems tol' de
oberseah he wuz gwine 'way on some
bizness, en den he wuz gwine ter his
yuther plantation, down in Robeson
County, en he did n' 'spec' he 'd be
back fer a mont' er so.
" ' But,' sezee, ' I wants you ter run
dis yer plantation fer all it 's wuth.
Dese yer niggers is gittin' monst'us
triflin' en lazy en keerless, en dey ain'
no 'pen'ence ter be put in 'em. I wants
Mars Jcevis s Nightmare 79
dat stop', en w'iles I 'm gone erway I
wants de 'spenses cut 'way down en a
heap mo' wuk done. Fac*, I wants dis
yer plantation ter make a reco'd dat '11
show w'at kinder oberseah you is.'
" Ole Nick did n' said nuffin but * Yas,
suh,' but de way he kinder grin' ter
hisse'f en show' his big yaller teef, en
snap' de rawhide he useter kyar roun'
wid 'im, made col' chills run up and
down de backbone er dem niggers w'at
beared Mars Jeems a-talkin'. En dat
night dey wuz mo'nin' en groanin' down
in de qua'ters, fer de niggers all knowed
w'at wuz comin'.
" So, sho' 'nuff, Mars Jeems went
erway nex' mawnin', en de trouble be-
gun. Mars Johnson sta'ted off de ve'y
fus' day fer ter see w'at he could hab ter
show Mars Jeems w'en he come back.
He made de tasks bigger en de rashuns
littler, en w'en de niggers had wukked
all day, he 'd fin' sump'n fer 'em ter do
8o The Conjure Woman
roun' de ba'n er som'ers atter da'k, fer
ter keep 'em busy a' hour er so befo'
dey went ter sleep.
" About th'ee er f o' days atter Mars
Jeems went erway, young Mars Dunkin
McSwayne rode up ter de big house one
day wid a nigger settin' behin' 'im in de
buggy, tied ter de seat, en ax' ef Mars
Jeems wuz home. Mars Johnson wuz
at de house, and he say no.
" ' Well,' sez Mars Dunkin, sezee, * I
fotch dis nigger ober ter Mistah McLean
fer ter pay a bet I made wid 'im las'
week w'en we wuz playin' kya'ds te'ged-
der. I bet 'im a nigger man, en heah 's
one I reckon '11 iill de bill. He wuz tuk
up de yuther day fer a stray nigger, en
he could n' gib no 'count er hisse'f, en
so he wuz sol' at oction, en I bought
'im. He 's kinder brash, but I knows
yo' powers, Mistah Johnson, en I reckon
ef anybody kin make 'im toe de ma'k,
you is de man.'
Mars J e ems s Nightmare 8i
" Mars Johnson grin' one er dem grins
w'at show' all his snaggle teef, en make
de niggers 'low he look lack de ole deb-
bil, en sezee ter Mars Dunkin : —
" * I reckon you kin trus' me, Mistah
Dunkin, fer ter tame any nigger wuz
eber bawn. De nigger doan lib w'at I
can't take down in 'bout fo' days.'
" Well, Ole Nick had 'is ban's full
long er dat noo nigger ; en w'iles de res'
er de darkies wuz sorry fer de po' man,
dey 'lowed he kep' Mars Johnson so
busy dat dey got along better 'n dey 'd
'a' done ef de noo nigger had nebber
"De fus' thing dat happen', Mars
Johnson sez ter dis yer noo man : —
" * W'at 's yo' name. Sambo .-* '
" ' My name ain' Sambo,' 'spon' de noo
" * Did I ax you w'at yo' name wa'n't } '
sez Mars Johnson. * You wants ter be
pa'tic'lar how you talks ter me. Now,
82 The Conjure Woman
w'at is yo' name, en whar did you come
fum ? '
" * I dunno my name,' sez de nigger,
* en I doan 'member whar I come fum.
My head is all kin' er mix' up.'
" ' Yas,' sez Mars Johnson, * I reckon
I '11 ha' ter gib you sump'n fer ter cl'ar
yo' head. At de same time, it '11 I'arn
you some manners, en atter dis mebbe
you '11 say " suh " w'en you speaks ter
" Well, Mars Johnson haul' off wid
his rawhide en hit de noo nigger once.
De noo man look' at Mars Johnson fer a
minute ez ef he did n' know w'at ter make
er dis yer kin' er I'arnin'. But w'en de
oberseah raise' his w'ip ter hit him ag'in,
de noo nigger des haul' off en made fer
Mars Johnson, en ef some er de yuther
niggers had n' stop' 'im, it 'peared ez ef
he mought 'a' made it wa'm fer Ole Nick
dere fer a w'ile. But de oberseah made
de yuther niggers he'p tie de noo nigger
Mars Jeems s Nightmare 83
up, en den gun 'im fo'ty, wid a dozen er
so th'owed in fer good measure, fer Ole
Nick wuz nebber stingy wid dem kin' er
rashuns. De nigger went on at a tar-
rable rate, des lack a wil' man, but co'se
he wuz bleedzd ter take his med'cine,
fer he wuz tied up en could n' he'p his-
" Mars Johnson lock' de noo nigger
up in de ba'n, en did n' gib 'im nuffin ter
eat fer a day er so, 'tel he got 'im kin'er
quiet' down, en den he tu'nt 'im loose
en put 'im ter wuk. De nigger 'lowed
he wa'n't useter wukkin', en would n'
wuk, en Mars Johnson gun 'im anudder
fo'ty fer laziness en impidence, en let
'im fas' a day er so mo', en den put 'im
ter wuk ag'in. De nigger went ter wuk,
but did n' 'pear ter know how ter han'le
a hoe. It tuk des 'bout half de ober-
seah's time lookin' atter 'im, en dat po'
nigger got mo' lashin's en cussin's en
cufdn's dan any fo' yuthers on de planta-
84 The Conjure Woman
tion. He did n' mix' wid ner talk much
ter de res' er de niggers, en could n'
'pear ter git it th'oo his min' dat he wuz
a slabe en had ter wuk en min' de w'ite
folks, spite er de fac' dat Ole Nick gun
'im a lesson eve'y day. En fin'lly Mars
Johnson 'lowed dat he could n' do nuffin
wid 'im ; dat ef he wuz his nigger, he 'd
break his sperrit er break 'is neck, one
er de yuther. But co'se he wuz only
sont ober on trial, en ez he did n' gib
sat'sfaction, en he had n' beared fum
Mars Jeems 'bout w'en he wuz comin'
back ; en ez he wuz feared he 'd git mad
some time er 'nuther en kill de nigger
befo' he knowed it, he 'lowed he 'd bet-
ter sen' 'im back whar he come fum.
So he tied 'im up en sont 'im back ter
" Now, Mars Dunkin McSwayne wuz
one er dese yer easy-gwine gent'emen
w'at did n' lack ter hab no trouble wid
niggers er nobody e'se, en he knowed ef
Mars Jeemss Nightmare 85
Mars Ole Nick could n' git 'long wid
dis nigger, nobody could. So he tuk de
nigger ter town dat same day, en sol'
'im ter a trader w'at wuz gittin' up a
gang er lackly niggers fer ter ship off on
de steamboat ter go down de ribber ter
Wim'l'ton en fum dere ter Noo Orleens.
" De nex' day atter de noo man had
be'n sont away, Solomon wuz wukkin'
in de cotton-fiel', en w'en he got ter de
fence nex' ter de woods, at de een' er
de row, who sh'd he see on de yuther
side but ole Aun' Peggy, She beckon'
ter 'im, — de oberseah wuz down on de
yuther side er de fiel', — en sez she : —
" ' W'y ain' you done come en 'po'ted
ter me lack I tol' you ? '
"'W'y, law! Aun' Peggy,' sez Solo-
mon, 'deyain' nuffin ter 'po't. Mars
Jeems went away de day atter we gun
'im de goopher mixtry, en we ain' seed
hide ner hair un 'im sence, en co'se we
doan know nuifin 'bout w'at 'fee' it had
86 TJie Conjure Woman
" ' I doan keer nuffin 'bout yo' Mars
Jeems now ; w'at I wants ter know is
w'at is be'n gwine on 'mongs' de nig-
gers. Has you be'n gittin' 'long any
better on de plantation ? '
" ' No, Aun' Peggy, we be'n gittin'
'long wusser. Mars Johnson is stric'er
'n he eber wuz befo', en de po' niggers
doan ha'dly git time ter draw dey bref,
en dey 'lows dey mought des ez well be
dead ez alibe.'
" * Uh huh ! ' sez Aun' Peggy, sez she,
*I tol' you dat 'uz monst'us pow'ful
goopher, en its wuk doan 'pear all at
" ' Long ez we had dat noo nigger
heah,' Solomon went on, ' he kep' Mars
Johnson busy pa't er de time ; but now
he 's gone erway, I s'pose de res' un us
'11 ketch it wusser 'n eber.'
" * W'at 's gone wid de noo nigger .'' '
sez Aun' Peggy, rale quick, battin' her
eyes en straight'nin' up.
Mars Jeems s Nightmare %"]
" ' Ole Nick done sont 'im back ter
Mars Dunkin, who had fotch 'hn heah
fer ter pay a gamblin' debt ter Mars
Jeems,' sez Solomon, * en I heahs Mars
Dunkin has sol' 'im ter a nigger-trader
up in Patesville, w'at 's gwine ter ship
'im off wid a gang ter-morrer.'
" Ole Aun' Peggy 'peared ter git rale
stirred up w'en Solomon tol' 'er dat, en
sez she, shakin' her stick at 'im : —
"*W'y did n' you come en tell me
'bout dis noo nigger bein' sol' erway ?
Did n' you promus me, ef I 'd gib you
dat goopher, you 'd come en 'po't ter me
'bout all w'at wuz gwine on on dis plan-
tation ? Co'se I could 'a' foun' out fer
myse'f, but I 'pended on yo' tellin' me,
en now by not doin' it I 's feared you
gwine spile my cunj'in'. You come
down ter my house ter-night en do w'at
I tells you, er I '11 put a spell on you
dat '11 make yo' ha'r fall out so you '11 be
bal', en yo' eyes drap out so you can't
The Conjtire Woman
see, en yo teef fall out so you can't eat,
en yo' years grow up so you can't heah.
Wen you is foolin' wid a cunjuh 'oman
lack me, you got ter min' yo' P's en Q's
er dey '11 be trouble sho' 'nuff.'
" So co'se Solomon went down ter
Aun' Peggy's dat night, en she gun 'im
a roasted sweet'n' 'tater.
" * You take dis yer sweet'n' 'tater,'
sez she, — ' I done goophered it 'speshly
fer dat noo nigger, so you better not eat
it yo'se'f er you '11 wush you had n', —
en slip off ter town, en fin' dat strange
man, en gib 'im dis yer sweet'n' 'tater.
He mus' eat it befo' mawnin', sho', ef
he doan wanter be sol' erway ter Noo
" ' But s'posen de patteroles ketch me,
Aun' Peggy, w'at I gwine ter do ? ' sez
" * De patteroles ain' gwine tech you,
but ef you doan fin' dat nigger, Fm
gwine git you, en you '11 fin' me wusser 'n
Mars Jeems' s Nightmare 89
de patteroles. Des hoi' on a minute, en
I '11 sprinkle you wid some er dis mixtry
out'n dis yer bottle, so de patteroles
can't see you, en you kin rub yo' feet
wid some er dis yer grease out'n dis
go'd, so you kin run fas', en rub some
un it on yo' eyes so you kin see in de
da'k ; en den you mus' fin' dat noo nig-
ger en gib 'im dis yer 'tater, er you
gwine ter hab mo' trouble on yo' ban's
'n you eber had befo' in yo' life er eber
will hab sence.'
" So Solomon tuk de sweet'n' 'tater en
sta'ted up de road fas' ez he could go,
en befo' long he retch' town. He went
right 'long by de patteroles, en dey did n'
'pear ter notice 'im, en bimeby he foun'
whar de strange nigger was kep', en he
walked right pas' de gyard at de do' en
foun' 'im. De nigger could n' see 'im,
ob co'se, en he could n' 'a' seed de nig-
ger in de da'k, ef it had n' be'n fer de
stuff Aun' Peggy gun 'im ter rub on 'is
90 TJie Conjure Woman
eyes. De nigger wuz layin' in a co'nder,
'sleep, en Solomon des slip' up ter 'im,
en hilt dat sweet'n' 'tater 'fo' de nigger's
nose, en he des nach'ly retch' up wid
his han', en tuk de 'tater en eat it in his
sleep, widout knowin' it. Wen Solo-
mon seed he 'd done eat de 'tater, he
went back en tol' Aun' Peggy, en den
went home ter his cabin ter sleep, 'way
'long 'bout two o'clock in de mawnin'.
" De nex' day wuz Sunday, en so de
niggers had a little time ter deyse'ves.
Solomon wuz kinder 'sturb' in his min'
thinkin' 'bout his junesey w'at 'uz gone
away, en wond'rin' w'at Aun' Peggy had
ter do wid dat noo nigger ; en he had
sa'ntered up in de woods so 's ter be by
hisse'f a little, en at de same time ter
look atter a rabbit-trap he 'd sot down in
de aidge er de swamp, w'en who sh'd he
see stan'in' unner a tree but a w'ite man.
" Solomon did n' knowed de w'ite man
at fus', 'tel de w'ite man spoke up ter 'im.
Mars Jeems's Nightmare 91
" ' Is dat you, Solomon ? ' sezee.
" Den Solomon reco'nized de voice.
" ' Fer de Lawd's sake, Mars Jeems !
is dat you ? '
"'Yas, Solomon,' sez his marster,
' dis is me, er w'at 's lef er me.'
" It wa'n't no wonder Solomon had n'
knowed Mars Jeems at fus', fer he wuz
dress' lack a po' w'ite man, en wuz bare-
footed, en look' monst'us pale en peaked,
ez ef he'd des come th'oo a ha'd spell er
" ' You er lookin' kinder po'ly, Mars
Jeems,' sez Solomon. * Is you be'n
sick, suh .'' '
'"No, Solomon,' sez Mars Jeems,
shakin' his head, en speakin' sorter slow
en sad, ' I ain' be'n sick, but I 's had a
monst'us bad dream, — fac', a reg'lar,
nach'ul nightmare. But tell me how
things has be'n gwine on up ter de plan-
tation sence I be'n gone, Solomon.'
" So Solomon up en tol' 'im 'bout de
92 The Conjure Woman
craps, en 'bout de bosses en de mules,
en 'bout de cows en de hawgs. En
w'en he 'mence' ter tell 'bout de noo
nigger, Mars Jeems prick' up 'is yeahs
en listen', en eve'y now en den he 'd say,
* Uh huh ! uh huh ! ' en nod 'is head.
En bimeby, w'en he 'd ax' Solomon some
mo' queshtuns, he sez, sezee : —
" ' Now, Solomon, I doan want you
ter say a wo'd ter nobody 'bout meetin'
me heah, but I wants you ter slip up ter
de house, en fetch me some clo's en
some shoes, — I fergot ter tell you dat
a man rob' me back yander on de road
en swap' clo's wid me widout axin' me
whuther er no, — but you neenter say
nuffin 'bout dat, nuther. You go en
fetch me some clo's heah, so nobody
won't see you, en keep yo' mouf shet,
en I '11 gib you a dollah.'
" Solomon wuz so 'stonish' he lack ter
fell ober in his tracks, w'en Mars Jeems
promus' ter gib 'im a dollah. Dey su'-
Mars Jeemss Nightmare 93
t'nly wuz a change come ober Mars
Jeems, w'en he offer' one er his niggers
dat much money. Solomon 'mence' ter
'spec' dat Aun' Peggy's cunj'ation had
be'n wukkin' monst'us strong.
" Solomon fotch Mars Jeems some
clo's en shoes, en dat same eb'nin' Mars
Jeems 'peared at de house, en let on lack
he des dat minute got home fum Robe-
son County. Mars Johnson was all
ready ter talk ter 'im, but Mars Jeems
sont 'im wo'd he wa'n't feelin' ve'y well
dat night, en he 'd see 'im ter-morrer,
" So nex' mawnin' atter breakfus'
Mars Jeems sont fer de oberseah, en ax'
'im fer ter gib 'count er his styoa'd-
ship. Ole Nick tol' Mars Jeems how
much wuk be'n done, en got de books
en showed 'im how much money be'n
save'. Den Mars Jeems ax' 'im how de
darkies be'n behabin', en Mars Johnson
say dey be'n behabin' good, most un
'em, en dem w'at did n' behabe good at
94 I^Jis Conjure Woman
fus' change dey conduc' atter he got
holt un 'em a time er two.
"'All,' sezee, * 'cep'n' de noo nigger
Mistah Dunkin fotch ober heah en lef
on trial, w'iles you wuz gone.'
" * Oh, yas,' 'lows Mars Jeems, * tell
me all 'bout dat noo nigger. I beared a
little 'bout dat quare noo nigger las'
night, en it wuz des too redik'lus. Tell
me all 'bout dat noo nigger.'
"So seein' Mars Jeems so good-na-
chu'd 'bout it, Mars Johnson up en tol'
'im how he tied up de noo ban' de fus'
day en gun 'im fo'ty 'ca'se he would n'
tell 'im 'is name.
" * Ha, ha, ha ! ' sez Mars Jeems, laf-
fin' fit ter kill, ' but dat is too funny f er
any use. Tell me some mo' 'bout dat
" So Mars Johnson went on en tol'
'im how he had ter starbe de noo nigger
'fo' he could make 'im take holt er a
Mars Jeeins's Nightmare 95
" * Dat wuz de beatinis' notion fer a
nigger,' sez Mars Jeems, * puttin' on airs,
des lack he wuz a w'ite man ! En I
reckon you did n' do nuffin ter 'im ? '
" ' Oh, no, suh,' sez de oberseah, grin-
nin' lack a chessy-cat, ' I did n' do nuffin
but take de hide off' n 'im.'
"Mars Jeems lafft en lafft, 'tel it
'peared lack he wuz des gwine ter bust.
* Tell me some mo' 'bout dat noo nig-
ger, oh, tell me some mo'. Dat noo
nigger int'rusts me, he do, en dat is a
" Mars Johnson did n' quite un'erstan'
w'y Mars Jeems sh'd make sich a great
'miration 'bout de noo nigger, but co'se
he want' ter please de gent'eman w'at
hi'ed 'im, en so he 'splain' all 'bout how
many times he had ter cowhide de noo
nigger, en how he made 'im do tasks
twicet ez big ez some er de yuther ban's,
en how he 'd chain 'im up in de ba'n at
night en feed 'im on co'n-bread en water.
96 TJve Conjure Woman
" ' Oh ! but you is a monst'us good
oberseah ; you is de bes' oberseah in
dis county, Mistah Johnson,' sez Mars
Jeems, w'en de oberseah got th'oo wid
his tale ; * en dey ain' nebber be'n no nig-
ger-breaker lack you roun' heah befo'.
En you desarbes great credit fer sendin'
dat nigger 'way befo' you sp'ilt 'im fer
de market. Fac', you is sech a monst'us
good oberseah, en you is got dis yer
plantation in sech fine shape, dat I
reckon I doan need you no mo'. You
is got dese yer darkies so well train' dat
I 'spec' I kin run 'em myse'f fum dis
time on. But I does wush you had 'a'
hilt on ter dat noo nigger 'tel I got
home, fer I 'd 'a' lack ter 'a' seed 'im, I
" De oberseah wuz so 'stonish' he
did n' ha'dly know w'at ter say, but
fin'lly he ax' Mars Jeems ef he would n'
gib 'im a riccommen' fer ter git ernudder
Mars Jeems s Nightmare 97
" ' No, suh,' sez Mars Jeems, * some-
how er 'nuther I doan lack yo' looks sence
I come back dis time, en I 'd much
ruther you would n' stay roun' heah,
Fac', I 's feared ef I 'd meet you alone in
de woods some time, I mought wanter
ha'm you. But layin' dat aside, I be'n
lookin' ober dese yer books er yo'n w'at
you kep' w'iles I wuz 'way, en fer a yeah
er so back, en dere 's some figgers w'at
ain' des cl'ar ter me. I ain' got no time
fer ter talk 'bout 'em now, but I 'spec'
befo' I settles wid you fer dis las' mont',
you better come up heah ter-morrer,
atter I 's look' de books en 'counts ober
some mo', en den we '11 straighten ou'
business all up.'
" Mars Jeems 'lowed atterwa'ds dat
he wuz des shootin' in de da'k w'en he
said dat 'bout de books, but howsom-
eber, Mars Nick Johnson lef dat naber-
hood 'twix' de nex' two suns, en nobody
roun' dere nebber seed hide ner hair
98 The Conjure Woman
un 'im sence. En all de darkies t'ank
de Lawd, en 'lowed it wuz a good rid-
dance er bad rubbage.
" But all dem things I done tol' you
ain' nuffin 'side'n de change w'at come
ober Mars Jeems fum dat time on.
Aun' Peggy's goopher had made a noo
man un 'im enti'ely. De nex' day atter
he come back, he tol' de ban's dey neen-
ter wuk on'y fum sun ter sun, en he cut
dey tasks down so dey did n' nobody
hab. ter stan' ober 'em wid a rawhide er
a hick'ry. En he 'lowed ef de niggers
want ter hab a dance in de big ba'n any
Sad'day night, dey mought hab it. En
bimeby, w'en Solomon seed how good
Mars Jeems wuz, he ax' 'im ef he would
n' please sen' down ter de yuther plan-
tation fer his junesey. Mars Jeems say
su't'nly, en gun Solomon a pass en a
note ter de oberseah on de yuther plan-
tation, en sont Solomon down ter Robe-
son County wid a boss en buggy fer ter
Mars Jeems's Nightmare 99
fetch his junesey back. Wen de nig-
gers see how fine Mars Jeems gwine
treat 'em, dey all tuk ter sweethea'tin'
en juneseyin' en singin' en dancin', en
eight er ten couples got married, en
bimeby eve'ybody 'mence' ter say Mars
Jeems McLean got a finer plantation,
en slicker-lookin' niggers, en dat he 'uz
makin' mo' cotton en co'n, dan any
yuther gent'eman in de county. En
Mars Jeems's own junesey. Miss Libbie,
beared 'bout de noo gwines-on on Mars
Jeems's plantation, en she change' her
min' 'bout Mars Jeems en tuk 'im back
ag'in, en 'fo' long dey had a fine weddin',
en all de darkies had a big feas', en dey
wuz fiddlin' en dancin' en funnin' en
frolic' in' fum sundown 'tel mawnin',"
"And they all lived happy ever after,"
I said, as the old man reached a full stop.
" Yas, suh," he said, interpreting my
remarks as a question, " dey did. Solo-
mon useter say," he added, " dat Aun'
100 The Conjure Woman
Peggy's goopher had turnt Mars Jeems
ter a nigger, en dat dat noo han' wuz
Mars Jeems hisse'f. But co'se Solomon
did n' das* ter let on 'bout w'at he 'spi-
cioned, en ole Aun' Peggy would 'a' 'nied
ef she had be'n ax', fer she 'd 'a' got in
trouble sho', ef it 'uz knowed she 'd be'n
cunj'in' de w'ite folks.
" Dis yer tale goes ter show," con-
cluded Julius sententiously, as the man
came up and announced that the spring
was ready for us to get water, " dat
w'ite folks w'at is so ha'd en stric', en
doan make no 'lowance fer po' ign'ant
niggers w'at ain' had no chanst ter I'arn,
is li'ble ter hab bad dreams, ter say de
leas', en dat dem w'at is kin' en good
ter po' people is sho' ter prosper en git
'long in de worl'."
" That is a very strange story, Uncle
Julius," observed my wife, smiling, " and
Solomon's explanation is quite improb-
Mars Jeems s Nightmare loi
" Yes, Julius," said I, " that was
powerful goopher. I am glad, too, that
you told us the moral of the story ; it
might have escaped us otherwise. By
the way, did you make that up all by
yourself ? "
The old man's face assumed an in-
jured look, expressive more of sorrow
than of anger, and shaking his head he
replied : —
" No, suh, I heared dat tale befo' you
er Mis' Annie dere wuz bawn, suh. My
mammy tol' me dat tale w'en I wa'n't
mo' d'n knee-high ter a hopper-grass."
I drove to town next morning, on
some business, and did not return until
noon ; and after dinner I had to visit
a neighbor, and did not get back until
supper-time. I was smoking a cigar on
the back piazza in the early evening,
when I saw a familiar figure carrying a
bucket of water to the barn. I called
I02 The Conjure Woman
"' My dear," I said severely, " what is
that rascal doing here ? I thought I dis-
charged him yesterday for good and
"Oh, yes," she answered, "I forgot
to tell you. He was hanging round the
place all the morning, and looking so
down in the mouth, that I told him that
if he would try to do better, we would
give him one more chance. He seems
so grateful, and so really in earnest in
his promises of amendment, that I 'm
sure you '11 not regret taking him back,"
I was seriously enough annoyed to let
my cigar go out. I did not share my
wife's rose-colored hopes in regard to
Tom ; but as I did not wish the servants
to think there was any conflict of au-
thority in the household, I let the boy
THE CONJURER'S REVENGE
Sunday was sometimes a rather dull
day at our place. In the morning, when
the weather was pleasant, my wife and
I would drive to town, a distance of
about five miles, to attend the church
of our choice. The afternoons we spent
at home, for the most part, occupying
ourselves with the newspapers and maga-
zines, and the contents of a fairly good
library. We had a piano in the house,
on which my wife played with skill and
feeling. I possessed a passable baritone
voice, and could accompany myself in-
differently well when my wife was not
by to assist me. When these resources
failed us, we were apt to find it a little
One Sunday afternoon in early spring,
104 l^he Conjure Woman
— the balmy spring of North Carolina,
when the air is in that ideal balance
between heat and cold where one wishes
it could always remain, — my wife and
I were seated on the front piazza, she
wearily but conscientiously ploughing
through a missionary report, while I fol-
lowed the impossible career of the
blonde heroine of a rudimentary novel.
I had thrown the book aside in disgust,
when I saw Julius coming through the
yard, under the spreading elms, which
were already in full leaf. He wore his
Sunday clothes, and advanced with a
dignity of movement quite different
from his week-day slouch.
" Have a seat, Julius," I said, pointing
to an empty rocking-chair.
" No, thanky, boss, I '11 des set here
on de top step."
"Oh, no. Uncle Julius," exclaimed
Annie, " take this chair. You will find
it much more comfortable."
The Conjurer s Revenge 105
The old man grinned in appreciation
of her solicitude, and seated himself
"Julius," I remarked, " I am thinking
of setting out scuppernong vines on that
sand-hill where the three persimmon-
trees are ; and while I 'm working there,
I think I '11 plant watermelons between
the vines, and get a little something to
pay for my first year's work. The new
railroad will be finished by the middle
of summer, and I can ship the melons
North, and get a good price for them."
" Ef you er gwine ter hab any mo'
ploughin' ter do," replied Julius, " I 'spec'
you '11 ha' ter buy ernudder creetur, 'ca'se
hit 's much ez dem bosses kin do ter
'ten' ter de wuk dey got now."
" Yes, I had thought of that. I think
I '11 get a mule ; a mule can do more
work, and does n't require as much at-
tention as a horse."
" I would n' 'vise you ter buy no mule,"
io6 The Conjure Woman
remarked Julius, with a shake of his
" Well, you may 'low hit 's all foolis'-
ness, but ef I wuz in yo' place, I would n'
buy no mule."
" But that is n't a reason ; what objec-
tion have you to a mule .'' "
"Fac' is," continued the old man, in
a serious tone, " I doan lack ter dribe
a mule, I 's alluz afeared I mought be
imposin' on some human creetur ; eve'y
time I cuts a mule wid a hick'ry, 'pears
ter me mos' lackly I 's cuttin' some er
my own relations, er somebody e'se w'at
can't he'p deyse'ves."
" What put such an absurd idea into
your head } " I asked.
My question was followed by a short
silence, during which Julius seemed en-
gaged in a mental struggle.
" I dunno ez hit 's wuf w'ile ter tell
you dis," he said, at length. " I doan
The Conjurer s Revenge 107
ha'dly 'spec' fer you ter b'lieve it.
Does you 'member dat club-footed man
w'at hilt de boss fer you de yuther day
w'en you was gittin' out'n de rockaway
down ter Mars Archie McMillan's sto' ? "
" Yes, I believe I do remember seeing
a club-footed man there."
" Did you eber see a club-footed nig-
ger befo' er sence ? "
"No, I can't remember that I ever
saw a club-footed colored man," I re-
plied, after a moment's reflection.
" You en Mis' Annie would n' wanter
b'lieve me, ef I wuz ter 'low dat dat man
was oncet a mule .'*"
"No," I rephed, "I don't think it
very likely that you could make us be-
" Why, Uncle Julius ! " said Annie
severely, "what ridiculous nonsense ! "
This reception of the old man's state-
ment reduced him to silence, and it
required some diplomacy on my part to
I08 The Conjure Woman
induce him to vouchsafe an explanation.
The prospect of a long, dull afternoon
was not alluring, and I was glad to have
the monotony of Sabbath quiet relieved
by a plantation legend.
"Wen I wuz a young man," began
Julius, when I had finally prevailed upon
him to tell us the story, " dat club-footed
nigger — his name is Primus — use' ter
b'long ter ole Mars Jim McGee ober on
de Lumbe'ton plank-road. I use' ter go
ober dere ter see a 'oman w'at libbed on
de plantation ; dat 's how I come ter
know all erbout it. Dis yer Primus wuz
de livelies' han' on de place, alluz a-dan-
cin', en drinkin', en runnin' roun', en
singin', en pickin'de banjo ; 'cep'n' once
in a w'ile, w'en he 'd 'low he wa'n't
treated right 'bout sump'n ernudder,
he 'd git so sulky en stubborn dat de
w'ite folks could n' ha'dly do nufifin wid
" It wuz 'gin' de rules fer any er de
The Conjurer s Revenge 109
ban's ter go 'way fum de plantation at
night ; but Primus did n' min' de rules,
en went w'en he felt lack it ; en de w'ite
folks purten' lack dey did n' know it, fer
Primus was dange'ous w'en he got in
dem stubborn spells, en^ dey 'd ruther
not fool wid 'im.
" One night in de spring er de year,
Primus slip' off fum de plantation, en
went down on de WimTton Road ter a
dance gun by some er de free niggers
down dere. Dey wuz a fiddle, en a
banjo, en a jug gwine roun' on de out-
side, en Primus sung en dance' 'tel 'long
'bout two o'clock in de mawnin', w'en
he start' fer home. Ez he come erlong
back, he tuk a nigh-cut 'cross de cotton-
fiel's en 'long by de aidge er de Min'al
Spring Swamp, so ez ter git shet er de
patteroles w'at rid up en down de big
road fer ter keep de darkies fum runnin'
roun' nights. Primus was sa'nt'rin' 'long,
studyin' 'bout de good time he 'd had
no The Conjure Woman
wid de gals, w'en, ez he wuz gwine by
a fence co'nder, w'at sh'd he heah but
sump'n grunt. He stopped a minute
ter listen, en he beared sump'n grunt
ag'in. Den he went ober ter de fence
whar he heard de fuss, en dere, layin' in
de fence co'nder, on a pile er pine straw,
he seed a fine, fat shote.
" Primus look' ha'd at de shote, en
den sta'ted home. But somehow er
'nudder he could n' git away fum dat
shote ; w'en he tuk one step for'ards
wid one foot, de yuther foot 'peared ter
take two steps back'ards, en so he kep*
nachly gittin' closeter en closeter ter de
shote. It was de beatin'es' thing ! De
shote des 'peared ter cha'm Primus, en
fus* thing you know Primus foun' his-
se'f 'way up de road wid de shote on
"Ef Primus had 'a' knowed whose
shote dat wuz, he 'd 'a' manage' ter git
pas' it somehow er 'nudder. Ez it hap-
The Conjurer' s Revenge in
pen', de shote b'long ter a cunjuh man
w'at libbed down in de free-nigger sett'e-
ment Co'se de cunjuh man did n' hab
ter wuk his roots but a little w'ile 'fo'
he foun' out who tuk his shote, en den
de trouble begun. One mawnin', a day
er so later, en befo' he got de shote eat
up, Primus did n' go ter wuk w'en de
hawn blow, en w'en de oberseah wen'
ter look fer him, dey wa' no trace er
Primus ter be 'skivered nowhar. W'en
he did n' come back in a day er so mo',
eve'ybody on de plantation 'lowed he
had runned erway. His marster a'ver-
tise' him in de papers, en offered a big
reward fer 'im. De nigger - ketchers
fotch out dey dogs, en track' 'im down
ter de aidge er de swamp, en den de
scent gun out ; en dat was de las' any-
body seed er Primus fer a long, long
"Two er th'ee weeks after Primus
disappear', his marster went ter town
112 The Conjure Woman
one Sad'day. Mars Jim was stan'in' in
front er Sandy Campbell's bar-room, up
by de ole wagon-ya'd, w'en a po' w'ite
man fum down on de Wim'l'ton Road
come up ter 'im en ax' 'im, kinder keer-
less lack, ef he did n' wanter buy a mule.
"'I dunno,' says Mars Jim; 'it 'pen's
on de mule, en on de price. Whar is de
mule .'' '
" * Des 'roun' heah back er ole Tom
McAllister's sto',' says de po' w'ite man.
" ' I reckon I '11 hab a look at de mule,'
says Mars Jim, * en ef he suit me, I dunno
but w'at I mought buy 'im.'
" So de po' w'ite man tuk Mars Jim
'roun' back er de sto', en dere stood a
monst'us fine mule. W'en de mule see
Mars Jim, he gun a whinny, des lack he
knowed him befo'. Mars Jim look' at
de mule, en de mule 'peared ter be soun'
en strong. Mars Jim 'lowed dey 'peared
ter be sump'n fermilyus 'bout de mule's
face, 'spesh'ly his eyes ; but he had n'
The Conjurers Revenge 113
los' naer mule, en did n' hab no recom-
memb'ance er habin' seed de mule befo'.
He ax' de po' buckrah whar he got de
mule, en de po' buckrah say his brer
raise' de mule down on Rockfish Creek.
Mars Jim was a little s'picious er seein'
a po' w'ite man wid sech a fine creetur,
but he fin'lly 'greed ter gib de man fifty
dollars fer de mule, — 'bout ha'f w'at a
good mule was wuf dem days.
" He tied de mule behin' de buggy
w'en he went home, en put 'im ter
ploughin' cotton de nex' day. De mule
done mighty well fer th'ee er fo' days,
en den de niggers 'mence' ter notice
some quare things erbout him. Dey
wuz a medder on de plantation whar dey
use' ter put de bosses en mules ter
pastur'. Hit was fence' off fum de corn-
fiel' on one side, but on de yuther side'n
de pastur' was a terbacker-patch w'at
wa'n't fence' off, 'ca'se de beastisses
doan none un 'em eat terbacker. Dey
114 The Conjure Woman
doan know w'at 's good ! Terbacker is
lack religion, de good Lawd made it fer
people, en dey ain' no yuther creetur
w'at kin 'preciate it, De darkies notice'
dat de fus' thing de new mule done,
w'en he was turnt inter de pastur', wuz
ter make fer de terbacker-patch. Co'se
dey didn' think nuffin un it, but nex'
mawnin', w'en dey went ter ketch 'im,
dey 'skivered dat he had eat up two whole
rows er terbacker plants. Atter dat dey
had ter put a halter on 'im, en tie 'im
ter a stake, er e'se dey would n' 'a' been
naer leaf er terbacker lef in de patch.
" Ernudder day one er de ban's, name'
'Dolphus, hitch' de mule up, en dribe up
here ter dis yer vimya'd, — dat wuz w'en
ole Mars Dugal' own' dis place. Mars
Dugal' had kilt a yearlin', en de naber
w'ite folks all sont ober fer ter git some
fraish beef, en Mars Jim had sont 'Dol-
phus fer some too. Dey wuz a wine-
press in de ya'd whar 'Dolphus lef de
TJie Conjtirer's Revenge 115
mule a-stan'in', en right in front er de
press dey wuz a tub er grape-juice, des
pressed out, en a little ter one side a
bairl erbout half full er wine w'at had
be'n stan'in' two er th'ee days, en had
begun ter git sorter sha'p ter de tas'e.
Dey wuz a couple er bo'ds on top er dis
yer bairl, wid a rock laid on 'em ter hoi'
'em down. Ez I wuz a-sayin', 'Dolphus
lef de mule stan'in' in de ya'd, en went
inter de smoke-house fer ter git de beef.
Bimeby, w'en he come out, he seed de
mule a-stagg'rin' 'bout de ya'd ; en 'fo'
'Dolphus could git dere ter fin' out w'at
wuz de matter, de mule fell right ober
on his side, en laid dere des' lack he was
"All de niggers 'bout de house run
out dere fer ter see w'at wuz de matter.
Some say de mule had de colic ; some
say one thing en some ernudder ; 'tel
bimeby one er de ban's seed de top wuz
off'n de bairl, en run en looked in.
ii6 The Conjure Woman
" ' Fo' de Lawd ! ' he say, ' dat mule
drunk ! he be'n drinkin' de wine.' En
sho' 'nuff, de mule had pas' right by
de tub er fraish grape-juice en push'
de kiver off' n de bairl, en drunk two er
th'ee gallon er de wine w'at had been
stan'in' long ernough fer ter begin ter
" De darkies all made a great 'miration
'bout de mule gittin' drunk. Dey never
had n' seed nuffin lack it in dey bawn
days. Dey po'd water ober de mule, en
tried ter sober 'im up ; but it wa'n't no
use, en 'Dolphus had ter take de beef
home on his back, en leabe de mule
dere, 'tel he slep' off 'is spree.
" I doan 'member whe'r I tol' you er
no, but w'en Primus disappear' fum de
plantation, he lef a wife behin' 'im, — a
monst'us good-lookin' yaller gal, name'
Sally. W'en Primus had be'n gone a
mont' er so, Sally 'mence' fer ter git lone-
some, en tuk up wid ernudder young
The Conjurer^ s Revenge 1 1 7
man name' Dan, w'at b'long' on de same
plantation. One day dis yer Dan tuk
de noo mule out in de cotton-fiel' fer
ter plough, en w'en dey wuz gwine 'long
de tu'n-row, who sh'd he meet but dis
yer Sally. Dan look' 'roun' en he did n'
see de oberseah nowhar, so he stop' a
minute fer ter run on wid Sally.
" ' Hoddy, honey,' sezee. ' How you
feelin' dis mawnin' .'' '
"'Fus' rate,' 'spon' Sally.
" Dey wuz lookin' at one ernudder,
en dey did n' naer one un 'em pay no
'tention ter de mule, who had turnt 'is
head 'roun' en wuz lookin' at Sally ez
ha'd ez he could, en stretchin' 'is neck
en raisin' 'is years, en whinnyin' kinder
sof ter hisse'f.
"'Yas, honey,' 'lows Dan, *en you
gwine ter feel fus' rate long ez you
sticks ter me. Fer I 's a better man dan
dat low-down runaway nigger Primus
dat you be'n wastin' yo' time wid.'
Ii8 The Conjure Woman
" Dan had let go de plough-handle, en
had put his arm 'roun' Sally, en wuz
des gwine ter kiss her, w'en sump'n
ketch' 'im by de scruff er de neck en
flung 'im 'way ober in de cotton-patch.
W'en he pick' 'isse'f up, Sally had gone
kitin' down de tu'n-row, en de mule wuz
stan'in' dere lookin' ez ca'm en peaceful
ez a Sunday mawnin'.
" Fus' Dan had 'lowed it wuz de ober-
seah w'at had cotch' 'im wastin' 'is time.
But dey wa'n't no oberseah in sight,
so he 'eluded it must 'a' be'n de mule.
So he pitch' inter de mule en lammed
'im ez ha'd ez he could. De mule tuk
it all, en 'peared ter be ez 'umble ez a
mule could be; but w'en dey wuz makin'
de turn at de een' er de row, one er de
plough-lines got under de mule's hin'
leg. Dan retch' down ter git de line out,
sorter keerless like, w'en de mule haul'
off en kick him clean ober de fence
inter a brier-patch on de yuther side.
The Conjurer's Revenge 119
" Dan wuz mighty so' fum 'is woun's
en scratches, en wuz laid up fer two er
th'ee days. One night de noo mule
got out'n de pastur', en went down to
de quarters. Dan wuz layin' dere on
his pallet, w'en he heard sump'n bangin'
erway at de side er his cabin. He
raise' up on one shoulder en look' roun',
w'en w'at should he see but de noo
mule's head stickin' in de winder, wid
his lips drawed back over his toofs, grin-
nin' en snappin' at Dan des' lack he
wanter eat 'im up. Den de mule went
roun' ter de do', en kick' erway lack he
wanter break de do' down, 'tel bimeby
somebody come 'long en driv him back
ter de pastur'. W'en Sally come in a
little later fum de big house, whar she 'd
be'n waitin' on de w'ite folks, she foun'
po' Dan nigh 'bout dead, he wuz so
skeered. She 'lowed Dan had had de
nightmare ; but w'en dey look' at de do',
dey seed de marks er de mule's huffs,
120 The Conjure Woman
so dey could n' be no mistake 'bout w'at
" Co'se de niggers tol' dey marster
'bout de mule's gwines-on. Fust he
did n' pay no 'tention ter it, but atter a
w'ile he tol' 'em ef dey did n' stop dey
foolis'ness, he gwine tie some un 'em up.
So atter dat dey did n' say nuffin mo'
ter dey marster, but dey kep' on noticin'
de mule's quare ways des de same.
"'Long 'bout de middle er de summer
dey wuz a big camp-meetin' broke out
down on de Wim'l'ton Road, en nigh
'bout all de po' w'ite folks en free nig-
gers in de settlement got 'ligion, en lo en
behol' ! 'mongs' 'em wuz de cunjuh man
w'at own' de shote w'at cha'med Primus.
"Dis cunjuh man wuz a Guinea nig-
ger, en befo' he wuz sot free had use'
ter b'long ter a gent'eman down in
Sampson County. De cunjuh man say
his daddy wuz a king, er a guv'ner, er
some sorter w'at-you-may-call-'em 'way
The Conjurer^ s Revenge 121
ober yander in Affiky whar de niggers
come fum, befo' he was stoled erway en
sol' ter de spekilaters. De cunjuh man
had he'ped his marster out'n some trou-
ble ernudder wid his goopher, en his
marster had sot him free, en bought
him a trac' er land down on de WimT-
ton Road. He purten* ter be a cow-doc-
tor, but eve'ybody knowed w'at he r'al'y
" De cunjuh man had n' mo' d'n come
th'oo good, befo' he wuz tuk sick wid a
col' w'at he kotch kneelin' on de groun'
so long at de mou'ners' bench. He
kep' gittin' wusser en wusser, en bimeby
de rheumatiz tuk holt er 'im, en drawed
him all up, 'tel one day he sont word
up ter Mars Jim McGee's plantation, en
ax' Pete, de nigger w'at tuk keer er de
mules, fer ter come down dere dat night
en fetch dat mule w'at his marster had
bought fum de po' w'ite man dyoin' er
122 The Conjure Woman
"Pete did n' know w'at de cunjuh
man wuz dribin' at, but he didn' daster
stay way ; en so dat night, w'en he 'd
done eat his bacon en his hoe-cake, en
drunk his 'lasses-en-water, he put a
bridle on de mule, en rid 'im down ter
de cunjuh man's cabin. W'en he got ter
de do', he lit en hitch' de mule, en den
knock' at de do'. He felt mighty jubous
'bout gwine in, but he was bleedst ter do
it ; he knowed he could n' he'p 'isse'f.
" ' Pull de string,' sez a weak voice,
en w'en Pete lif de latch en went in, de
cunjuh man was layin' on de bed, lookin'
pale en weak, lack he did n' hab much
longer f er ter lib.
" ' Is you fotch' de mule .-' ' sezee.
" Pete say yas, en de cunjuh man kep'
" * Brer Pete,' sezee, ' I 's be'n a
monst'us sinner man, en I 's done a
power er wickedness endyoin' er my
days ; but de good Lawd is wash' my
The Conjtirer^s Revejtge 123
sins erway, en I feels now dat I 's boun'
fer de kingdom. En I feels, too, dat I
ain' gwine ter git up fum dis bed no
liio' in dis worl', en I wants ter ondo
some er de harm I done. En dat 's de
reason. Brer Pete, I sont fer you ter
fetch dat mule down here. You 'mem-
ber dat shote I was up ter yo' planta-
tion inquirin' 'bout las' June .'* '
" '■ Yas,' says Brer Pete, ' I 'member
yo' axin' 'bout a shote you had los'.'
" ' I dunno whe'r you eber I'arnt it er
no,' says de cunjuh man, 'but I done
knowed yo' marster's Primus had tuk de
shote, en I wuz boun' ter git eben wid
'im. So one night I cotch' 'im down
by de swamp on his way ter a candy-
pullin', en I th'owed a goopher mixtry on
'im, en tumt 'im ter a mule, en got a po'
w'ite man ter sell de mule, en we 'vided
de money. But I doan want ter die 'tel
I turn Brer Primus back ag'in.'
"Den de cunjuh man ax' Pete ter
124 ^^^ Conjtire Woman
take down one er two go'ds off'n a she'f
in de corner, en one er two bottles wid
some kin' er mixtry in 'em, en set 'em
on a stool by de bed ; en den he ax' 'im
ter fetch de mule in.
"Wen de mule come in de do', he
gin a snort, en started fer de bed, des
lack he was gwine ter jump on it.
" ' Hoi' on dere. Brer Primus ! ' de cun-
juh man hollered, ' I 's monst'us weak,
en ef you 'mence on me, you won't neb-
ber hab no chance fer ter git turn' back
"De mule seed de sense er dat, en
stood still. Den de cunjuh man tuk de
go'ds en bottles, en 'mence' ter wuk de
roots en yarbs, en de mule 'mence' ter
turn back ter a man, — fust his years,
den de res' er his head, den his shoul-
ders en arms. All de time de cunjuh
man kep' on wukkin' his roots ; en Pete
en Primus could see he wuz gittin'
weaker en weaker all de time.
The Co7ijurer s Revenge 125
" ' Brer Pete,' sezee, bimeby, * gimme
a drink er dem bitters out'n dat green
bottle on de she'f yander. I 's gwine
fas', en it '11 gimme strenk fer ter finish
"Brer Pete look' up on de mantel-
piece, en he seed a bottle in de corner.
It was so da'k in de cabin he could n'
tell whe'r it wuz a green bottle er no.
But he hilt de bottle ter de cunjuh
man's mouf, en he tuk a big mouff'l.
He had n' mo' d'n swallowed it befo' he
'mence' ter holler.
" ' You gimme de wrong bottle. Brer
Pete ; dis yer bottle 's got pizen in it,
en I 's done fer dis time, sho'. Hoi' me
up, fer de Lawd's sake ! 'tel I git th'oo
" So Pete hilt him up, en he kep' on
wukkin' de roots, 'tel he got de goopher
all tuk off'n Brer Primus 'cep'n' one
foot. He had n' got dis foot mo' d'n
half turnt back befo' his strenk gun out
126 The Conjure Woman
enti'ely, en he drap' de roots en fell
back on de bed.
" ' I can't do no mo' f er you, Brer
Primus,' sezee, 'but I hopes you will
fergib me fer w'at harm I done you, I
knows de good Lawd done fergib me,
en I hope ter meet you bofe in glory,
I sees de good angels waitin' fer me up
yander, wid a long w'ite robe en a starry
crown, en I 'm on my way ter jine 'em.'
En so de cunjuh man died, en Pete en
Primus went back ter de plantation.
" De darkies all made a great 'mira-
tion w'en Primus come back. Mars
Jim let on lack he did n' b'lieve de tale
de two niggers tol' ; he sez Primus had
runned erway, en stay' 'tel he got ti'ed
er de swamps, en den come back on him
ter be fed. He tried ter 'count fer de
shape er Primus' foot by sayin' Primus
got his foot smash', er snake-bit, er
sump'n, w'iles he wuz erway, en den
stayed out in de woods whar he could n'
The Conjurer^ s Revenge 127
git it kyoed up straight, 'stidder comin'
long home whar a doctor could 'a'
'tended ter it. But de niggers all notice'
dey marster did n' tie Primus up, ner
take on much 'ca'se de mule wuz gone.
So dey 'lowed dey marster must 'a' had
his s'picions 'bout dat cunjuh man."
My wife had listened to Julius's recital
with only a mild interest. When the
old man had finished it she remarked : —
"That story does not appeal to me,
Uncle Julius, and is not up to your
usual mark. It is n't pathetic, it has no
moral that I can discover, and I can't
see why you should tell it. In fact, it
seems to me like nonsense."
The old man looked puzzled as well as
pained. He had not pleased the lady,
and he did not seem to understand why.
" I 'm sorry, ma'm," he said reproach-
fully, " ef you doan lack dat tale. I can't
make out w'at you means by some er
dem wo'ds you uses, but I 'm tellin'
128 The Co7ijure Woman
nuffin but de truf. Co'se I did n' see
de cunjuh man tu'n 'im back, fer I wuz n'
dere ; but I be'n hearin' de tale fer
twenty-five yeahs, en I ain' got no
'casion fer ter 'spute it. Dey 's so many
things a body knows is lies, dat dey ain'
no use gwine roun' findin' fault wid tales
dat mought des ez well be so ez not.
F' instance, dey 's a young nigger gwine
ter school in town, en he come out heah
de yuther day en 'lowed dat de sun stood
still en de yeath turnt roun' eve'y day
on a kinder axletree. I toF dat young
nigger ef he didn' take hisse'f 'way wid
dem lies, I 'd take a buggy-trace ter 'im ;
fer I sees de yeath stan'in' still all de
time, en I sees de sun gwine roun' it,
en ef a man can't b'lieve w'at 'e sees, I
can't see no use in libbin' — mought 's
well die en be whar we can't see nuffin.
En ernudder thing w'at proves de tale
'bout dis ole Primus is de way he goes
on ef anybody ax' him how he come
The Conjurer s Revenge 129
by dat club-foot. I axed 'im one day,
mighty perlite en civil, en he call' me a'
ole fool, en got so mad he ain' spoke
ter me sence. Hit 's monst'us quare.
But dis is a quare worl', anyway yer kin
fix it," concluded the old man, with a
"Ef you makes up yo' min' not ter
buy dat mule, suh," he added, as he rose
to go, "I knows a man w'at 's got a
good hoss he wants ter sell, — leas'ways
dat 's w'at I beared. I 'm gwine ter
pra'rmeetin* ter-night, en I 'm gwine
right by de man's house, en ef you 'd
lack ter look at de hoss, I '11 ax 'im ter
fetch him roun'."
" Oh, yes," I said, " you can ask him
to stop in, if he is passing. There will
be no harm in looking at the horse,
though I rather think I shall buy a
Early next morning the man brought
the horse up to the vineyard. At that
130 The Conjure Woman
time I was not a very good judge of horse-
flesh. The horse appeared sound and
gentle, and, as the owner assured me,
had no bad habits. The man wanted a
large price for the horse, but finally
agreed to accept a much smaller sum,
upon payment of which I became pos-
sessed of a very fine-looking animal,
>iBut alas for the deceitfulness of appear-
ances ! I soon ascertained that the
horse was blind in one eye, and that the
sight of the other was very defective ;
and not a month elapsed before my pur-
chase developed most of the diseases
that horse-flesh is heir to, and a more
worthless, broken-winded, spavined quad-
ruped never disgraced the noble name
of horse. After worrying through two
or three months of life, he expired one
night in a fit of the colic. I replaced
him with a mule, and Julius henceforth
had to take his chances of driving some
The Conjurer^ s Revenge 131
Circumstances that afterwards came
to my knowledge created in my mind a
strong suspicion that Julius may have
played a more than unconscious part in
this transaction. Among other signifi-
cant facts was his appearance, the Sun-
day following the purchase of the horse,
in a new suit of store clothes, which I
had seen displayed in the window of
Mr. Solomon Cohen's store on my last
visit to town, and had remarked on ac-
count of their striking originality of cut
and pattern. As I had not recently
paid Julius any money, and as he had
no property to mortgage, I was driven
to conjecture to account for his posses-
sion of the means to buy the clothes.
Of course I would not charge him with
duplicity unless I could prove it, at least
to a moral certainty, but for a long time
afterwards I took his advice only in
small doses and with great discrimina-
SIS' BECKY'S PICKANINNY
We had not lived in North Carolina
very long before I was able to note a
marked improvement in my wife's health.
The ozone-laden air of the surrounding
piney woods, the mild and equable cli-
mate, the peaceful leisure of country
life, had brought about in hopeful mea-
sure the cure we had anticipated.
Toward the end of our second year,
however, her ailment took an unex-
pected turn for the worse. She became
the victim of a settled melancholy, at-
tended with vague forebodings of im-
"You must keep up her spirits," said
our physician, the best in the neigh-
boring town. " This melancholy lowers
her tone too much, tends to lessen her
Sz's' Becky s Pickaninny 133
strength, and, if it continue too long,
may be fraught with grave conse-
I tried various expedients to cheer
her up. I read novels to her. I had
the hands on the place come up in the
evening and serenade her with planta-
tion songs. Friends came in sometimes
and talked, and frequent letters from
the North kept her in touch with her
former home. But nothing seemed to
rouse her from the depression into
which she had fallen.
One pleasant afternoon in spring, I
placed an armchair in a shaded portion
of the front piazza, and filling it with
pillows led my wife out of the house and
seated her where she would have the
pleasantest view of a somewhat monoto-
nous scenery. She was scarcely placed
when old Julius came through the yard,
and, taking off his tattered straw hat,
inquired, somewhat anxiously : —
134 The Conjure Woman
"How is you feelin' dis atternoon,
ma m r
" She is not very cheerful, Julius," I
said. My wife was apparently without
energy enough to speak for herself.
The old man did not seem inclined
to go away, so I asked him to sit down.
I had noticed, as he came up, that
he held some small object in his hand.
When he had taken his seat on the top
step, he kept fingering this object, —
what it was I could not quite make out.
" What is that you have there, Julius '^. "
I asked, with mild curiosity.
"Dis is my rabbit foot, suh."
This was at a time before this curious
superstition had attained its present joc-
ular popularity among white people, and
while I had heard of it before, it had not
yet outgrown the charm of novelty.
" What do you do with it .? "
"I kyars it wid me fer luck, suh."
"Julius," I observed, half to him and
Sis' Becky s Pickaninny 135
half to my wife, "your people will never
rise in the world until they throw off
these childish superstitions and learn to
live by the light of reason and common
sense. How absurd to imagine that the
fore-foot of a poor dead rabbit, with
which he timorously felt his way along
through a life surrounded by snares and
pitfalls, beset by enemies on every hand,
can promote happiness or success, or
ward off failure or misfortune ! "
" It is ridiculous," assented my wife,
with faint interest.
" Dat 's w'at I tells dese niggers roun'
heah," said Julius. " De fo'-foot ain'
got no power. It has ter be de hin'-
foot, suh, — de lef hin'-foot er a grabe-
ya'd rabbit, killt by a cross-eyed nigger
on a da'k night in de full er de moon."
" They must be very rare and valua-
ble," I said.
"Dey is kinder ska'ce, suh, en dey
ain' no 'mount er money could buy mine,
136 The Conjure Woman
suh. I mought len' it ter anybody I sot
sto' by, but I would n' sell it, no indeed,
suh, I would n'."
" How do you know it brings good
luck ? " I asked.
** 'Ca'se I ain' had no bad luck sence
I had it, suh, en I 's had dis rabbit foot
fer fo'ty yeahs. I had a good marster
befo' de wah, en I wa'n't sol' erway, en
I wuz sot free ; en dat 'uz all good luck."
" But that does n't prove anything,"
I rejoined. " Many other people have
gone through a similar experience, and
probably more than one of them had no
" Law, suh ! you doan hafter prove
'bout de rabbit footH Eve'ybody knows
dat ; leas'ways eve'ybody roun' heah
knows it. But ef /it has ter be prove'
ter folks w'at wa^'t bawn en raise' in
dis naberhood, dey is a' easy way ter
prove it. Is I eber tol' you de tale er
Sis' Becky en her pickaninny? "
Sis' Becky s Pickmimny 137
"No," I said, "let us hear it." I
thought perhaps the story might inter-
est my wife as much or more than the
novel I had meant to read from.
"Dis yer Becky," Julius began, "use-
ter b'long ter ole Kunnel Pen'leton, who
owned a plantation down on de Wim'l'-
ton Road, 'bout ten miles fum heah,
des befo' you gits ter Black Swamp.
Dis yer Becky wuz a fiel'-han', en a
monst'us good 'un. She had a husban'
oncet, a nigger w'at b'longed on de nex'
plantation, but de man w'at owned her
husban' died, en his Ian' en his niggers
had ter be sol' fer ter pay his debts.
Kunnel Pen'leton 'lowed he'd 'a' bought
dis nigger, but he had be'n bettin' on
hoss races, en did n' hab no money, en
so Becky's husban' wuz sol' erway ter
" Co'se Becky went on some 'bout
losin' her man, but she could n' he'p
herse'f ; en 'sides dat, she had her pick-
138 The Conjure Woman
aninny fer ter comfo't her. Dis yer lit-
tle Mose wuz de cutes', blackes', shiny-
eyedes' little nigger you eber laid eyes
on, en he wuz ez fon' er his mammy ez
his mammy wuz er him. Co'se Becky
had ter wuk en did n' hab much time
ter was'e wid her baby. Ole Aun'
Nancy, de plantation nuss down at de
qua'ters, useter take keer er little Mose
in de daytime, en atter de niggers come
in fum de cotton-fiel' Becky 'ud git her
chile en kiss 'im en nuss 'im, en keep
'im 'tel mawnin' ; en on Sundays she 'd
hab 'im in her cabin wid her all day
"Sis' Becky had got sorter useter
gittin' 'long widout her husban', w'en
one day Kunnel Pen'leton went ter de
races. Co'se w'en he went ter de races,
he tuk his bosses, en co'se he bet on 'is
own bosses, en co'se he los' his money ;
fer Kunnel Pen'leton did n' nebber hab
no luck wid his bosses, ef he did keep
Sis' Becky s Pickaninny 139
hisse'f po' projeckin' wid 'em. But dis
time dey wuz a boss name' Lightnin'
Bug, w'at b'longed ter ernudder man,
en dis boss won de sweep-stakes ; en
Kunnel Pen'leton tuk a lackin' ter dat
boss, en ax' bis owner w'at be wuz wilUn'
ter take fer 'im.
" ' I '11 take a tbousan' dollabs fer dat
boss,' sez dis yer man, wbo bad a big
plantation down to'ds Wim'l'ton, whar
be raise' bosses fer ter race en ter sell.
"Well, Kunnel Pen'leton scratcb' 'is
head, en wonder wbar be wuz gwine ter
raise a tbousan' dollabs ; en be did n'
see des bow be could do it, fer 1 e owed
ez mucb ez be could borry a'ready on de
skyo'ity be could gib. Eut be wuz des
boun' ter bab dat boss, so sezee : —
" ' I '11 gib you my note fer 'leven
hund'ed dollabs fer dat boss.'
"De yutber man sbuck 'is bead, en
sezee : —
"'Yo' note, sub, is better 'n gol', I
140 The Conjure Woman
doan doubt ; but I is made it a rule in
my bizness not ter take no notes fum
nobody. Howsomeber, suh, ef you is
kinder sho't er fun's, mos' lackly we kin
make some kin' er bahg'in. En w'iles
we is talkin', I mought 's well say dat I
needs ernudder good nigger down on
my place. Ef you is got a good one ter
spar', I mought trade wid you.'
" Now, Kunnel Pen'leton did n' r'ally
hab no niggers fer ter spar', but he
'lowed ter hisse'f he wuz des bleedzd ter
hab dat boss, en so he sez, sezee : —
" ' Well, I doan lack ter, but I reckon
I '11 haf ter. You come out ter my
plantation ter-morrer en look ober my
niggers, en pick out de one you wants.'
" So sho' 'nuff nex' day dis yer man
come out ter Kunnel Pen'leton's place
en rid roun' de plantation en glanshed
at de niggers, en who sh'd he pick out
fum 'em all but Sis' Becky.
" ' I needs a noo nigger 'oman down
Sis' Becky's Pickaninny 141
ter my place,' sezee, ' fer ter cook en
wash, en so on ; en dat young 'oman '11
des fill de bill. You gimme her, en you
kin hab Lightnin' Bug.' "
" Now, Kunnel Pen'leton did n' lack
ter trade Sis' Becky, 'ca'se she wuz nigh
'bout de bes' fiel'-han' he had ; en 'sides,
Mars Dugal' did n' keer ter take de
mammies 'way fum dey chillun w'iles de
chillun wuz little. But dis man say he
want Becky, er e'se Kunnel Pen'leton
could n' hab de race boss.
" 'Well,' sez de kunnel, 'you kin hab
de 'oman. But I doan lack ter sen' her
'way fum her baby. Wat '11 you gimme
fer dat nigger baby .-' '
" ' I doan want de baby,' sez de yuther
man. ' I ain' got no use fer de baby.'
" ' I tell yer w'at I '11 do,' 'lows Kunnel
Pen'leton, ' I '11 th'ow dat pickaninny in
fer good measure.'
" But de yuther man shuck his head.
* No,' sezee, ' I 's much erbleedzd, but I
142 The Conjure Woman
doan raise niggers ; I raises bosses, en
I doan wanter be botb'rin' wid no nig-
ger babies. Nemmine de baby. I '11
keep dat 'oman so busy she '11 f ergit de
baby ; fer niggers is made ter wuk, en
dey ain' got no time fer no sich foolis'-
ness ez babies.'
" Kunnel Pen'leton did n* wanter hu't
Becky's feelin's, — - fer Kunnel Pen'leton
wuz a kin'-hea'ted man, en nebber lack'
ter make no trouble fer nobody, — en so
he tol' Becky he wuz gwine sen' her
down ter Robeson County fer a day er
so, ter he'p out his son-in-law in his
wuk ; en bein' ez dis yuther man wuz
gwine dat way, he had ax' 'im ter take
her 'long in his buggy.
" ' Kin I kyar little Mose wid me, mars-
ter 1 ' ax' Sis' Becky.
" ' N-o,' sez de kunnel, ez ef he wuz
studyin' whuther ter let her take 'im er
no ; ' I reckon you better let Aun' Nancy
look atter yo' baby fer de day er two
Sis' Becky s Pickatmrny 143
you 'II be gone, en she '11 see dat he gits
ernuff ter eat 'tel you gits back.'
" So Sis' Becky hug' en kiss' little
Mose, en tol' 'im ter be a good little
pickaninny, en take keer er hisse'f, en
not fergit his mammy w'iles she wuz
gone. En little Mose put his arms
roun' his mammy en lafft en crowed des
lack it wuz monst'us fine fun fer his
mammy ter go 'way en leabe 'im.
" Well, dis yer boss trader sta'ted out
wid Becky, en bimeby, atter dey 'd gone
down de Lumbe'ton Road fer a few
miles er so, dis man tu'nt roun' in a
diffe'nt d'rection, en kep' goin' dat er-
way, 'tel bimeby Sis' Becky up 'n ax' 'im
ef he wuz gwine ter Robeson County by
a noo road.
" ' No, nigger,' sezee, * I ain' gwine ter
Robeson County at all. I 's gwine ter
Bladen County, whar my plantation is,
en whar I raises all my bosses.'
" ' But how is I gwine ter git ter Mis'
144 '^^^^ Conjure Woman
Laura's plantation down in Robeson
County ? ' sez Becky, wid her hea't in
her mouf, fer she 'mence' ter git skeered
all er a sudden.
" ' You ain' gwine ter git dere at all/
sez de man. * You b'longs ter me now,
fer I done traded my bes' race boss fer
you, wid yo' ole marster. Ef you is a
good gal, I '11 treat you right, en ef you
doan behabe yo'se'f, — w'y, w'at e'se
happens '11 be yo' own fault.'
" Co'se Sis' Becky cried en went on
'bout her pickaninny, but co'se it did n'
do no good, en bimeby dey got down
ter dis yer man's place, en he put Sis'
Becky ter wuk, en fergot all 'bout her
habin' a pickaninny.
" Meanw'iles, w'en ebenin' come, de
day Sis' Becky wuz tuk 'way, little Mose
'mence' ter git res'less, en bimeby, w'en
his mammy did n' come, he sta'ted ter
cry fer 'er. Aun' Nancy fed 'im en
rocked 'im en rocked 'im, en fin'lly he
Sis' Becky's Pickanimiy 145
des cried en cried 'tel he cried hisse'f
" De nex' day he did n' 'pear ter be
as peart ez yushal, en w'en night come
he fretted en went on wuss 'n he did de
night befo'. De nex' day his little eyes
'mence' ter lose dey shine, en he would n'
eat nuffin, en he 'mence' ter look so
peaked dat Aun' Nancy tuk 'n kyared
'im up ter de big house, en showed 'im
ter her ole missis, en her ole missis gun
her some med'cine fer 'im, en 'lowed ef
he did n' git no better she sh'd fetch 'im
up ter de big house ag'in, en dey 'd hab
a doctor, en nuss little Mose up dere.
Fer Aun' Nancy's ole missis 'lowed he
wuz a lackly little nigger en wu'th raisin'.
" But Aun' Nancy had I'arn' ter lack
little Mose, en she did n' wanter hab 'im
tuk up ter de big house. En so w'en he
did n' git no better, she gethered a mess
er green peas, and tuk de peas en de
baby, en went ter see ole Aun' Peggy,
146 The Conjure Woman
de cunjuh 'oman down by de Wim'l'ton
Road. She gun Ann' Peggy de mess er
peas, en tol' her all 'bout Sis' Becky en
'* * Dat is a monst'us small mess er
peas you is fotch' me,' sez Aun' Peggy,
" ' Yas, I knows,' 'lowed Aun' Nancy,
'but dis yere is a monst'us small picka-
" ' You '11 hafter fetch me sump'n
mo',' sez Aun' Peggy, 'fer you can't
'spec' me ter was'e my time diggin'
roots en wukkin' cunj'ation fer nuffin.'
" ' All right,' sez Aun' Nancy, ' I '11
fetch you sump'n mo' nex' time.'
"'You bettah,' sez Aun' Peggy, 'er
e'se dey '11 be trouble. Wat dis yer
little pickaninny needs is ter see his
mammy. You leabe 'im heah 'tel eben-
in' en I '11 show 'im his mammy.'
" So w'en Aun' Nancy had gone 'way,
Aun' Peggy tuk 'n wukked her roots, en
Sis' Becky s Pickanmny 147
tu'nt little Mose ter a hummin'-bird, en
sont 'im off fer ter fin' his mammy.
" So little Mose flewed, en flewed, en
flewed away, 'tel bimeby he got ter de
place whar Sis' Becky b'longed. He
seed his mammy wukkin' roun' de ya'd,
en he could tell fum lookin' at her dat
she wuz trouble' in her min' 'bout sump'n,
en feelin' kin' er po'ly. Sis' Becky beared
sump'n hummin' roun' en roun' her, sweet
en low. Fus' she 'lowed it wuz a hum-
min'-bird ; den she thought it sounded
lack her little Mose croonin' on her breas'
way back yander on de ole plantation.
En she des 'magine' it wuz her little
Mose, en it made her feel bettah, en she
went on 'bout her wuk pearter 'n she'd
done sence she 'd be'n down dere. Little
Mose stayed roun' 'tel late in de ebenin',
en den flewed back ez hard ez he could
ter Aun' Peggy. Ez fer Sis' Becky, she
dremp all dat night dat she wuz holdin'
her pickaninny in her arms, en kissin'
148 TJie Conjure Woman
him, en nussin' him, des lack she useter
do back on de ole plantation whar he
wuz bawn. En fer th'ee er fo' days Sis'
Becky went 'bout her wuk wid mo' sper-
rit dan she 'd showed sence she 'd be'n
down dere ter dis man's plantation.
"De nex' day atter he come back,
little Mose wuz mo' pearter en better 'n
he had be'n fer a long time. But to'ds
de een' er de week he 'mence' ter git
res'less ag'in, en stop' eatin', en Aun'
Nancy kyared 'im down ter Aun' Peggy
once mo', en she tu'nt 'im ter a mawkin'-
bird dis time, en sont 'im off ter see his
" It did n' take him long fer ter git
dere, en w'en he did, he seed his
mammy standin' in de kitchen, lookin'
back in de d'rection little Mose wuz
comin' fum. En dey wuz tears in her
eyes, en she look' mo' po'ly en peaked 'n
she had w'en he wuz down dere befo'.
So little Mose sot on a tree in de ya'd
Sis' Becky s Pickaninny 149
en sung, en sung, en sung, des fittin' ter
split his th'oat. Fus' Sis' Becky did n'
notice 'im much, but dis mawkin'-bird
kep' stayin' roun' de house all day, en
bimeby Sis' Becky des 'magine' dat maw-
kin'-bird wuz her little Mose crowin' en
crowin', des lack he useter do w'en his
mammy would come home at night fum
de cotton-fiel'. De mawkin'-bird stayed
roun' dere 'mos' all day, en w'en Sis*
Becky went out in de ya'd one time, dis
yer mawkin'-bird lit on her shoulder en
peck' at de piece er bread she wuz eat-
in', en fluttered his wings so dey rub' up
agin de side er her head. En w'en he
flewed away 'long late in de ebenin', des
'fo' sundown, Sis' Becky felt mo' bet-
ter 'n she had sence she had beared dat
hummin'-bird a week er so pas*. En dat
night she dremp 'bout ole times ag'in,
des lack she did befo'.
" But dis yer totin' little Mose down
ter ole Aun' Peggy, en dis yer gittin'
150 The Conjure Woman
things fer ter pay de cunjuh 'oman, use'
up a lot er Aun' Nancy's time, en she
begun ter git kinder ti'ed. 'Sides dat,
w'en Sis' Becky had be'n on de planta-
tion, she had useter he'p Aun' Nancy
wid de young uns ebenin's en Sundays ;
en Aun' Nancy 'mence' ter miss 'er
monst'us, 'speshly sence she got a tech
er de rheumatiz herse'f, en so she 'lows
ter ole Aun' Peggy one day : —
" ' Aun' Peggy, ain' dey no way you
kin fetch Sis' Becky back home ? '
" ' Huh ! ' sez Aun' Peggy, * I dunno
'bout dat. I '11 hafter wuk my roots en
fin' out whuther I kin er no. But it '11
take a monst'us heap er wuk, en I can't
was'e my time fer nuffin, Ef you '11
fetch me sump'n ter pay me fer my
trouble, I reckon we kin fix it.'
" So nex' day Aun' Nancy went down
ter see Aun' Peggy ag'in.
" ' Aun' Peggy,' sez she, * I is fotch'
you my bes' Sunday head-hankercher.
Will dat do .? '
Szs' Becky s Pickanimiy 151
" Aun' Peggy look' at de head-hanker-
cher, en run her han' ober it, en sez
she : —
*"Yas, dat'll do fus'-rate. I's be'n
wukkin' my roots sence you be'n gone,
en I 'lows mos' lackly I kin git Sis'
Becky back, but it 's gwine take fig'rin'
en studyin' ez well ez cunj'in'. De fus'
thing ter do '11 be ter stop fetchin' dat
pickaninny down heah, en not sen' 'im
ter see his mammy no mo'. Ef he gits
too po'ly, you lemme know, en I '11 gib
you some kin' er mixtry fer ter make 'im
fergit Sis' Becky fer a week er so. So
'less'n you comes fer dat, you neenter
come back ter see me no mo' 'tel I sen's
"So Aun' Peggy sont Aun' Nancy
erway, en de fus' thing she done wuz
ter call a hawnet fum a nes' unner her
" ' You go up ter Kunnel Pen'leton's
stable, hawnet,* sez she, 'en sting de
152 The Conjure Woman
knees er de race boss name' Lightnin'
Bug. Be sho' en git de right one.'
" So de hawnet flewed up ter Kunnel
Pen'leton's stable en stung Ligbtnin'
Bug roun' de laigs, en de nex' mawnin'
Lightnin' Bug's knees wuz all swoll' up,
twice't ez big ez dey ougbter be. Wen
Kunnel Pen'leton went out ter de stable
en see de boss's laigs, bit would 'a' des
made you trimble lack a leaf fer ter
heah him cuss dat boss trader. How-
someber, he cool' off bimeby en tol' de
stable boy fer ter rub Lightnin' Bug's
laigs wid some linimum. De boy done
ez his marster tol' 'im, en by de nex' day
de swellin' had gone down consid'able.
Auri' Peggy had sont a sparrer, w'at had
a nes' in one er de trees close ter her
cabin, fer ter watch w'at wuz gwine on
'roun' de big house, en w'en dis yer
sparrer tol' 'er de boss wuz gittin' ober
de swellin', she sont de hawnet back fer
ter sting 'is knees some mo', en de nex'
Sty Becky s Pickaninny 153
mawnin' Lightnin' Bug's laigs wuz swoll'
up wuss 'n befo'.
" Well, dis time Kunnel Pen'leton
wuz mad th'oo en th'oo, en all de way
'roun', en he cusst dat boss trader up en
down, fura A ter Izzard. He cusst so
ha'd dat de stable boy got mos' skeered
ter def, en went off en hid hisse'f in de
"Ez fer Kunnel Pen'leton, he went
right up ter de house en got out his pen
en ink, en tuk off his coat en roll' up his
sleeves, en writ a letter ter dis yer boss
trader, en sezee : —
" * You is sol' me a boss w'at is got
a ringbone er a spavin er sump'n, en
w'at I paid you fer wuz a soun' boss. I
wants you ter sen' my nigger 'oman
back en take yo' ole boss, er e'se I '11
sue you, sho 's you bawn.'
" But dis yer man wa'n't skeered a
bit, en he writ back ter Kunnel Pen'le-
ton dat a bahg'in wuz a bahg'in ; dat
154 The Conjure Woman
Lightnin' Bug wuz soun' w'en he sol'
'im, en ef Kunnel Pen'leton did n'
knowed ernuff 'bout bosses ter take
keer er a fine racer, dat wuz his own
fune'al. En be say Kunnel Pen'leton
kin sue en be cusst fer all be keer, but
he ain' gwine ter gib up de nigger he
bought en paid fer.
" W'en Kunnel Pen'leton got dis let-
ter he wuz madder 'n he wuz befo',
'spesbly 'ca'se dis man 'lowed he did n'
know how ter take keer er fine bosses.
But he could n' do nuffin but fetch a
lawsuit, en he knowed, by bis own 'spe-
'ience, dat lawsuits wuz slow ez de
seben-yeah eetch and cos' mo' d'n dey
come ter, en he 'lowed he better go
slow en wait awhile.
" Aun' Peggy knowed w'at wuz gwine
on all dis time, en she fix' up a little bag
wid some roots en one thing en ernudder
in it, en gun it ter dis sparrer er her'n,
en tol' 'im ter take it 'way down yander
Sis' Beckys Picka7iin7iy 155
whar Sis' Becky wuz, en drap it right
befo' de do' er her cabin, so she 'd be
sho' en fin' it de fus' time she come
out'n de do'.
" One night Sis' Becky dremp' her
pickaninny wuz dead, en de nex' day she
wuz mo'nin' en groanin' all day. She
dremp' de same dream th'ee nights run-
nin', en den, de nex' mawnin' atter de
las' night, she foun' dis yer little bag de
sparrer had drap' in front her do' ; en
she 'lowed she'd be'n cunju'd, en wuz
gwine ter die, en ez long ez her picka-
ninny wuz dead dey wa'n't no use tryin'
ter do nuffin nohow. En so she tuk 'n
went ter bed, en tol' her marster she 'd
be'n cunju'd en wuz gwine ter die.
" Her marster lafft at her, en argyed
wid her, en tried ter 'suade her out'n dis
yer fool notion, ez he called it, — f er he
wuz one er dese yer w'ite folks w'at
purten' dey doan b'liebe in cunj'in', —
but hit wa'n't no use. Sis' Becky kep'
156 The Conjure Woman
gittin' wusser en wusser, 'tel fin'lly dis
yer man 'lowed Sis' Becky wuz gwine
ter die, sho' 'nuff. En ez he knowed'
dey had n' be'n nuffin de matter wid
Lightnin' Bug w'en he traded 'im, he
'lowed mebbe he could kyo' 'im en fetch
'im roun' all right, leas'ways good 'nuff
ter sell ag'in. En anyhow, a lame hoss
wuz better 'n a dead nigger. So he sot
down en writ Kunnel Pen'leton a letter.
" ' My conscience,' sezee, ' has be'n
troublin' me 'bout dat ringbone' hoss I
sol' you. Some folks 'lows a hoss trader
ain' got no conscience, but dey doan
know me, fer dat is my weak spot, en de
reason I ain' made no mo' money hoss
tradin'. Fac' is,' sezee, ' I is got so I
can't sleep nights fum studyin' 'bout dat
spavin' hoss ; en I is made up my min'
dat, w'iles a bahg'in is a bahg'in, en you
seed Lightnin' Bug befo' you traded fer
'im, principle is wuth mo' d'n money er
bosses er niggers. So ef you '11 sen'
Sis' Becky s Pickanmuy 157
Lightnin' Bug down heah, I '11 sen* yo'
I nigger 'oman back, en we '11 call de
I trade off, en be ez good frien's ez we
• eber wuz, en no ha'd feelin's.'
" So sho' 'nuff, Kunnel Pen'leton sont
de boss back. En w'en de man w'at
come ter bring Lightnin' Bug tol' Sis'
Becky her pickaninny wa'n't dead, Sis'
Becky wuz so glad dat she 'lowed she
wuz gwine ter try ter lib 'tel she got
back whar she could see little Mose
once mo'. En w'en she retch' de ole
plantation en seed her baby kickin' en
crowin' en holdin' out his little arms
to'ds her, she wush' she wuz n' cunju'd
en did n' hafter die. En w'en Aun'
Nancy tol' 'er all 'bout Aun' Peggy, Sis'
Becky went down ter see de cunjuh
'oman, en Aun' Peggy tol' her she had
cunju'd her. En den Aun' Peggy tuk
de goopher off' n her, en she got well, en
stayed on de plantation, en raise' her
pickaninny. En w'en little Mose growed
158 The Conjure Woman
up, he could sing en whistle des lack a
mawkin'-bird, so dat de w'ite folks use-
ter hab 'im come up ter de big house at
night, en whistle en sing fer 'em, en
dey useter gib 'im money en vittles en
one thing er ernudder, w'ich he alluz tuk
home ter his mammy ; fer he knowed
all 'bout w'at she had gone th'oo. He
tu'nt out ter be a sma't man, en I'arnt
de blacksmif trade ; en Kunnel Pen'le-
ton let 'im hire his time. En bimeby
he bought his mammy en sot her free,
en den he bought hisse'f, en tuk keer er
Sis' Becky ez long ez dey bofe libbed."
My wife had listened to this story
with greater interest than she had mani-
fested in any subject for several days.
I had watched her furtively from time
to time during the recital, and had ob-
served the play of her countenance. It
had expressed in turn sympathy, indig-
nation, pity, and at the end lively satis-
Sis' Becky's Pickaninny 159
" That is a very ingenious fairy tale,
Julius," I said, " and we are much
obliged to you."
" Why, John ! " said my wife severely,
" the story bears the stamp of truth, if
ever a story did."
" Yes," I replied, " especially the hum-
ming-bird episode, and the mocking-bird
digression, to say nothing of the doings
of the hornet and the sparrow."
" Oh, well, I don't care," she rejoined,
with delightful animation ; " those are
mere ornamental details and not at all
essential. The story is true to nature,
and might have happened half a hun-
dred times, and no doubt did happen, in
those horrid days before the war."
"By the way, Julius," I remarked,
" your story does n't establish what you
started out to prove, — that a rabbit's
foot brings good luck."
" Hit 's plain 'nuff ter me, suh," replied
Julius. " I bet young missis dere kin
'splain it herse'f."
i6o The Conjure Woman
" I rather suspect," replied my wife
promptly, " that Sis' Becky had no rab-
" You is hit de bull's-eye de fus' fire,
ma'm," assented Julius. " Ef Sis' Becky
had had a rabbit foot, she nebber would
'a' went th'oo all dis trouble."
I went into the house for some pur-
pose, and left Julius talking to my wife.
When I came back a moment later, he
My wife's condition took a turn for
the better from this very day, and she
was soon on the way to ultimate recov-
ery. Several weeks later, after she had
resumed her afternoon drives, which had
been interrupted by her illness, Julius
brought the rockaway round to the front
door one day, and I assisted my wife
into the carriage.
"John," she said, before I had taken
my seat, " I wish you would look in my
room, and bring me my handkerchief.
Szs' Becky s Pickanitiny i6i
You will find it in the pocket of my blue
I went to execute the commission.
When I pulled the handkerchief out of
her pocket, something else came with it
and fell on the floor. I picked up the
object and looked at it. It was Julius's
/:" THE GRAY WOLF'S HA'NT
It was a rainy day at the vineyard.
The morning had dawned bright and
clear. But the sky had soon clouded,
and by nine o'clock there was a light
shower, followed by others at brief inter-
vals. By noon the rain had settled into
a dull, steady downpour. The clouds
hung low, and seemed to grow denser
instead of lighter as they discharged
their watery burden, and there was now
and then a muttering of distant thunder.
Outdoor work was suspended, and I
spent most of the day at the house,
looking over my accounts and bringing
up some arrears of correspondence.
Towards four o'clock I went out on
the piazza, which was broad and dry,
and less gloomy than the interior of the
The Gray Wolf's Hani 163
house, and composed myself for a quiet
smoke. I had lit my cigar and opened
the volume I was reading at that time,
when my wife, whom I had left dozing
on a lounge, came out and took a rock-
ing-chair near me.
" I wish you would talk to me, or read
to me — or something," she exclaimed
petulantly, " It 's awfully dull here to-
" I '11 read to you with pleasure," I
replied, and began at the point where I
had found my bookmark : —
" * The difficulty of dealing with trans-
formations so many-sided as those which
all existences have undergone, or are
undergoing, is such as to make a com-
plete and deductive interpretation al-
most hopeless. So to grasp the total
process of redistribution of matter and
motion as to see simultaneously its
several necessary results in their actual
interdependence is scarcely possible.
There is, however, a mode of rendering
164 The Conjure Woman
the process as a whole tolerably compre-
hensible. Though the genesis of the
rearrangement of every evolving aggre-
gate is in itself one, it presents to our
intelligence '" —
" John," interrupted my wife, " I wish
you would stop reading that nonsense
and see who that is coming up the
I closed my book with a sigh. I had
never been able to interest my wife in
the study of philosophy, even when pre-
sented in the simplest and most lucid
Some one was coming up the lane ;
at least, a huge faded cotton umbrella
was making progress toward the house,
and beneath it a pair of nether extremi-
ties in trousers was discernible. Any
doubt in my mind as to whose they were
was soon resolved when Julius reached
the steps and, putting the umbrella
down, got a good dash of the rain as he
stepped up on the porch.
The Gray Wolfs Hdnt 165
" Why in the world, Julius," I asked,
*' did n't you keep the umbrella up until
you got under cover ? "
" It 's bad luck, suh, ter raise a' um-
brella in de house, en w'iles I dunno
whuther it 's bad luck ter kyar one inter
de piazzer er no, I 'lows it 's alluz bes'
ter be on de safe side. I did n' s'pose
you en young missis 'u'd be gwine on
yo' dribe ter-day, but bein' ez it's my
pa't ter take you ef you does, I 'lowed
I 'd repo't fer dooty, en let you say
whuther er no you wants ter go."
" I 'm glad you came, Julius," I re-
sponded. " We don't want to go driv-
ing, of course, in the rain, but I should
like to consult you about another mat-
ter. I 'm thinking of taking in a piece
of new ground. What do you imagine
it would cost to have that neck of woods
down by the swamp cleared up .-'"
The old man's countenance assumed
an expression of unwonted seriousness,
and he shook his head doubtfully.
1 66 The Co7tjure Woman
" I dunno 'bout dat, suh. It mought
cos' mo', en it mought cos' less, ez fuh
ez money is consarned. I ain' denyin'
you could cl'ar up dat trac' er Ian' far a
hund'ed er a couple er hund'ed dollahs,
— ef you wants ter cl'ar it up. But ef
dat 'uz my trac' er Ian', I would n' 'sturb
it, no, suh, I would n' ; sho 's you bawn,
I would n'."
" But why not ? " I asked.
" It ain' fittin' fer grapes, fer noo
groun' nebber is."
" I know it, but " —
" It ain' no yeathly good fer cotton,
'ca'se it 's too low."
"Perhaps so; but it will raise splen-
"I dunno," rejoined Julius depreca-
torily. " It 's so nigh de swamp dat de
'coons '11 eat up all de cawn."
" I think I '11 risk it," I answered.
"Well, suh," said Julius, "I wushes
you much joy er yo' job. Ef you has
The Gray Wolfs Ha'nt 167
bad luck er sickness er trouble er any
kin', doan blame me. You can't say ole
Julius did n' wa'n you."
" Warn him of what, Uncle Julius ? "
asked my wife.
"Er de bad luck w'at follers folks
w'at 'sturbs dat trac' er Ian'. Dey is
snakes en sco'pions in dem woods. En
ef you manages ter 'scape de p'isen ani-
mals, you is des boun' ter hab a ha'nt
ter settle wid, — ef you doan hab two."
" Whose haunt } " my wife demanded,
with growing interest.
" De gray wolf's ha'nt, some folks
calls it, — but I knows better."
" Tell us about it. Uncle Julius," said
my wife. " A story will be a godsend
It was not difficult to induce the old
man to tell a story, if he were in a remi-
niscent mood. Of tales of the old sla-
very days he seemed indeed to possess
an exhaustless store, — some weirdly
1 68 The Conjure Woman
grotesque, some broadly humorous ; some
bearing the stamp of truth, faint, per-
haps, but still discernible ; others palpa-
ble inventions, whether his own or not
we never knew, though his fancy doubt-
less embellished them. But even the
wildest was not without an element of
pathos, — the tragedy, it might be, of
the story itself; the shadow, never ab-
sent, of slavery and of ignorance ; the
sadness, always, of life as seen by the
fading light of an old man's memory.
"Way back yander befo' de wah,"
began Julius, " ole Mars Dugal' McAdoo
useter own a nigger name' Dan. Dan
wuz big en strong en hearty en peace-
able en good-nachu'd most er de time,
but dange'ous ter aggervate. He alluz
done his task, en nebber had no trouble
wid de w'ite folks, but woe be unter
de nigger w'at 'lowed he c'd fool wid
Dan, fer he wuz mos' sho' ter git a good
lammin'. Soon ez eve'ybody foun' Dan
TJie Gray Wolffs Hant 169
out, dey did n' many un 'em 'temp' ter
'stiirb 'im. De one dat did would 'a*
wush' he iiad n', ef he could 'a' libbed
long ernuif ter do any wushin'.
" It all happen' dis erway. Dey wuz
a cunjuh man w'at libbed ober t' other
side er de Lumbe'ton Road. He had
be'n de only cunjuh doctor in de naber-
hood fer lo ! dese many yeahs, 'tel ole
Aun' Peggy sot up in de bizness down
by de Wim'l'ton Road. Dis cunjuh
man had a son w'at libbed wid 'im, en
it wuz dis yer son w'at got mix' up wid
Dan, — en all 'bout a 'oman.
"Dey wuz a gal on de plantation
name' Mahaly. She wuz a monst'us
lackly gal, — tall en soopl', wid big eyes,
en a small foot, en a lively tongue, en
w'en Dan tuk ter gwine wid 'er eve'y-
body 'lowed dey wuz well match', en
none er de yuther nigger men on de
plantation das' ter go nigh her, fer dey
wuz all feared er Dan.
170 The Conjtire Woman
" Now, it happen' dat dis yer cunjuh
man's son wuz gwine 'long de road one
day, w'en who sh'd come pas' but Ma-
haly. En de minute dis man sot eyes
on Mahaly, he 'lowed he wuz gwine ter
hab her fer hisse'f. He come up side
er her en 'mence' ter talk ter her ; but
she didn' paid no 'tention ter 'im, fer
she wuz studyin' 'bout Dan, en she did
n' lack dis nigger's looks nohow. So
w'en she got ter whar she wuz gwine,
dis yer man wa'n't no fu'ther 'long dan
he wuz w'en he sta'ted.
" Co'se, atter he had made up his min'
fer ter git Mahaly, he 'mence' ter 'quire
'roun', en soon foun' out all 'bout Dan,
en w'at a dange'ous nigger he wuz. But
dis man 'lowed his daddy wuz a cunjuh
man, en so he 'd come out all right in de
een' ; en he kep' right on atter Mahaly.
Meanw'iles Dan's marster had said dey
could git married ef dey wanter, en so
Dan en Mahaly had, tuk up wid one er-
The Gray Wolfs Ha'nt 171
nudder, en wuz libbin' in a cabin by dey-
se'ves, en wuz des wrop' up in one er-
"But dis yer cunjuh man's son did n'
'pear ter min' Dan's takin' up wid Ma-
haly, en he kep' on hangin' 'roun' des de
same, 'tel fin'lly one day Mahaly sez ter
Dan, sez she : —
" * I wush you 'd do sump'n ter stop
dat free nigger man fum follerin' me
'roun'. I doan lack him nohow, en I
ain' got no time fer ter was'e wid no
man but you.'
" Co'se Dan got mad w'en he beared
'bout dis man pest'rin' Mahaly, en de
nex' night, w'en he seed dis nigger
comin' 'long de road, he up en ax' 'im
w'at he mean by hangin' 'roun' his 'oman.
De man did n' 'spon' ter suit Dan, en
one wo'd led ter ernudder, 'tel bimeby
dis cunjuh man's son pull' out a knife
en sta'ted ter stick it in Dan ; but befo'
he could git it drawed good, Dan haul'
1/2 The Conjure Woman
off en hit 'im in de head so ha'd dat he
nebber got up. Dan 'lowed he 'd come
to atter a w'ile en go 'long 'bout his biz-
ness, so he went off en lef 'im layin'
dere on de groun'.
" De nex' mawnin' de man wuz foun'
dead. Dey wuz a great 'miration made
'bout it, but Dan did n' say nufiEin, en
none er de yuther niggers had n' seed
de fight, so dey wa'n't no way ter tell
who done de killin'. En bein' ez it wuz
a free nigger, en dey wa'n't no w'ite
folks 'speshly int'rusted, dey wa'n't nuf-
fin done 'bout it, ende cunjuhman come
en tuk his son en kyared 'im 'way en
" Now, Dan had n' meant ter kill dis
nigger, en w'iles he knowed de man
had n' got no mo' d'n he desarved, Dan
'mence' ter worry mo' er less. Fer he
knowed dis man's daddy would wuk his
roots en prob'ly fin' out who had killt
'is son, en make all de trouble fer 'im
The Gray Wolfs Hdnt 173
he could. En Dan kep' on studyin'
'bout dis 'tel he got so he did n' ha'dly
das' ter eat er drink fer fear dis cunjuh
man had p'isen' de vittles er de water.
Fin'lly he 'lowed he 'd go ter see Aun'
Peggy, de noo cunjuh 'oman w'at had
moved down by de Wim'l'ton Road, en
ax her fer ter do sump'n ter pertec' 'im
fum dis cunjuh man. So he tuk a peck
er 'taters en went down ter her cabin
" Aun' Peggy beared his tale, en den
sez she : —
" ' Dat cunjuh man is mo' d'n twice't
ez ole ez I is, en he kin make monst'us
powe'ful goopher. W'at you needs is a
life-cha'm, en I '11 make you one ter-mor-
rer ; it 's de on'y thing w'at '11 do you
any good. You leabe me a couple er
ha'rs fum yo' head, en fetch me a pig
ter-morrer night fer ter roas', en w'en
you come I '11 hab de cha'm all ready
174 I^Ji^ Conjure Woman
" So Dan went down ter Aun' Peggy
de nex' night, — wid a young shote, — en
Aun' Peggy gun 'im de cha'm. She
had tuk de ha'rs Dan had lef wid 'er,
en a piece er red flannin, en some roots
en yarbs, en had put 'em in a little bag
made out'n 'coon-skin.
" ' You take dis cha'm,' sez she, * en
put it in a bottle er a tin box, en bury
it deep unner de root er a live-oak tree,
en ez long ez it stays dere safe en soun',
dey ain' no p'isen kin p'isen you, dey
ain' no rattlesnake kin bite you, dey
ain' no sco'pion kin sting you. Dis yere
cunjuh man mought do one thing er
'nudder ter you, but he can't kill you.
So you neenter be at all skeered, but go
'long 'bout yo' bizness en doan bother
" So Dan went down by de ribber, en
'way up on de bank he buried de cha'm
deep unner de root er a live-oak tree, en
kivered it up en stomp' de dirt down en
The Gray Wolfs Ha tit 17$
scattered leaves ober ,de spot, en den
went home wid his min' easy.
** Sho' 'nuff, dis yer cunjuh man wukked
his roots, des ez Dan had 'spected he
would, en soon I'arn' who killt his son.
En co'se he made up his min' fer ter git
eben wid Dan. So he sont a rattle-
snake fer ter sting 'im, but de rattle-
snake say de nigger's heel wuz so ha'd
he could n' git his sting in. Den he
sont his jay-bird fer ter put p'isen in
Dan's vittles, but de p'isen did n' wuk.
Den de cunjuh man 'low' he 'd double
Dan all up wid de rheumatiz, so he
could n' git 'is han' ter his mouf ter eat,
en would hafter sta've ter def ; but Dan
went ter Aun' Peggy, en she gun 'im a'
'intment ter kyo de rheumatiz. Den de
cunjuh man 'lowed he 'd bu'n Dan up
wid a fever, but Aun' Peggy tol' 'im how
ter make some yarb tea fer dat, Nuffin
dis man tried would kill Dan, so fin'lly
de cunjuh man 'lowed Dan mus' hab a
1/6 The Conjure Woman
Ui- "Now, dis yer jay-bird de cunjuh man
had wuz a monst'us sma't creeter, — fac',
de niggers 'lowed he wuz de ole Debbil
hisse'f, des settin' roun' waitin' ter kyar
dis ole man erway w'en he 'd retch' de
een' er his rope. De cunjuh man sont
dis jay-bird fer ter watch Dan en fin'
out whar he kep' his cha'm. De jay-bird
hung roun' Dan fer a week er so, en
one day he seed Dan go down by de
ribber en look at a live-oak tree ; en den
de jay-bird went back ter his marster,
en tol' 'im he 'spec' de nigger kep' his
life-cha'm under dat tree.
" De cunjuh man lafft en lafft, en he
put on his bigges' pot, en fill' it wid his
stronges' roots, en b'iled it en b'iled it,
'tel bimeby de win' blowed en blowed,
*tel it blowed down de live-oak tree.
Den he stirred some more roots in de
pot, en it rained en rained 'tel de water
run down de ribber bank en wash' Dan's
life-cha'm inter de ribber, en de bottle
The Gray Wolfs Haiti 177
went bobbin' down de current des ez
onconsarned ez ef it wa'n't takin' po*
Dan's chances all 'long wid it. En den
de cunjuh man lafft some mo', en 'lowed
ter hisse'f dat he wuz gwine ter fix Dan
now, sho' 'nuff ; he wa'n't gwine ter kill
'im des yet, fer he could do sump'n ter
'im w'at would hu't wusser 'n killin'.
" So dis cunjuh man 'mence' by gwine
up ter Dan's cabin eve'y night, en takin'
Dan out in his sleep en ridin' 'im roun'
de roads en fiel's ober de rough groun'.
In de mawnin' Dan would be ez ti'ed ez
ef he had n' be'n ter sleep. Dis kin' er
thing kep' up fer a week er so, en Dan
had des 'bout made up his min' fer ter
go en see Aun' Peggy ag'in, w'en who
sh'd he come across, gwine 'long de
road one day, to'ds sundown, but dis yer
cunjuh man. Dan felt kinder skeered
at fus' ; but den he 'membered 'bout his
life-cha'm, w'ich he had n' be'n ter see
fer a week er so, en 'lowed wuz safe en
178 TJie Conjure Woman
soun' unner de live-oak tree, en so he
hilt up 'is head en walk' 'long, des lack
he did n' keer nuffin 'bout dis man no
mo' d'n any yuther nigger. Wen he
got close ter de cunjuh man, dis cunjuh
man sez, sezee : —
" ' Hoddy, Brer Dan? I hopes you
er well ? '
"Wen Dan seed de cunjuh man wuz
in a good humor en did n' 'pear ter bear
no malice, Dan 'lowed mebbe de cunjuh
man had n' foun' out who killt his son,
en so he 'termine' fer ter let on lack he
did n' know nuffin, en so sezee : —
" ' Hoddy, Unk' Jube ? ' — dis ole cun-
juh man's name wuz Jube, 'I's p'utty
well, I thank you. How is you feelin'
dis mawnin ' .■' '
" * I 's feelin' ez 'well ez a' ole nigger
could feel w'at had los' his only son, en
his main 'pen'ence in 'is ole age.
" ' But den my son wuz a bad boy,*
sezee, *en I could n' 'spec' nuffin e'se.
TJie Gray Wolfs Hdnt 179
I tried ter Tarn him de arrer er his ways
en make him go ter chu'ch en pra'r-
meetin' ; but it wa'n't no use. I dunno
who killt 'im, en I doan wanter know,
fer I 'd be mos' sho' ter fin' out dat my
boy had sta'ted de fuss. Ef I 'd 'a' had
a son lack you, Brer Dan, I 'd 'a' be'n a
proud nigger ; oh, yas, I would, sho 's
you bawn. But you ain' lookin' ez well
ez you oughter, Brer Dan. Dey 's
sump'n de matter wid you, en w'at 's
mo', I 'spec' you dunno w'at it is.'
" Now, dis yer kin' er talk nach'ly
th'owed Dan off'n his gya'd, en fus'
thing he knowed he wuz talkin' ter dis
ole cunjuh man des lack he wuz one er
his bes' frien's. He tol' 'im all 'bout
not feelin' well in de mawnin', en ax'
'im ef he could tell w'at wuz de matter
" ' Yas,' sez de cunjuh man. ' Dey is
a witch be'n ridin' you right 'long. I
kin see de marks er de bridle on yo'
i8o The Conjure Woman
mouf. En I '11 des bet yo' back is raw
whar she 's be'n beatin* you.'
"'Yas,' 'spon' Dan, 'so it is.' He
hadn' notice it befo', but now he felt
des lack de hide had be'n tuk off'n 'im,
" ' En yo' thighs is des raw whar de
spurrers has be'n driv' in you,' sez de
cunjuh man. * You can't see de raw
spots, but you kin feel 'em.'
" * Oh, yas,' 'lows Dan, ' dey does hu't
" 'En w'at's mo',' sez de cunjuh man,
comin' up close ter Dan en whusp'in' in
his yeah, * I knows who it is be'n ridin'
"'Who is it.?' ax' Dan. 'Tell me
who it is.'
" * It 's a' ole nigger 'oman down by
Rockfish Crick. She had a pet rabbit,
en you cotch' 'im one day, en she 's been
squarin' up wid you eber sence. But
you better stop her, er e'se you '11 be rid
ter def in a mont' er so.'
The Gray WolfsHant i8i
" * No,' sez Dan, * she can't kill me,
"'I dunno how dat is,' said de cun-
juh man, 'but she kin make yo' life
mighty mis'able. Ef I wuz in yo' place,
I 'd stop her right off.'
" * But how is I gwine ter stop her ? *
ax' Dan. * I dunno nufQn 'bout stoppin*
" ' Look a heah, Dan,' sez de yuther ;
* you is a good young man. I lacks you
monst'us well. Fac', I feels lack some
er dese days I mought buy you fum yo'
marster, ef I could eber make money
ernuff at my bizness dese hard times, en
'dop' you fer my son. I lacks you so well
dat I 'm gwine ter he'p you git rid er dis
yer witch fer good en all ; fer des ez
long ez she libs, you is sho' ter hab trou-
ble, en trouble, en mo' trouble.'
" * You is de bes' frien' I got, Unk'
Jube,' sez Dan, 'en I '11 'member yo'
kin'ness ter my dyin' day. Tell me how
1 82 The Conjure Woman
I kin git rid er dis yer ole witch w'at 's
be'n ridin' me so ha'd.'
"'In de fus' place,' sez de cunjuh
man, ' dis ole witch nebber comes in
her own shape, but eve'y night, at ten
o'clock, she tu'ns herse'f inter a black
cat, en runs down ter yo' cabin en bridles
you, en mounts you, en dribes you out
th'oo de chimbly, en rides you ober de
roughes' places she kin fin'. All you
got ter do is ter set fer her in de bushes
'side er yo' cabin, en hit her in de head
wid a rock er a lighterd-knot w'en she
" ' But,' sez Dan, * how kin I see her
in de da'k .'' En s'posen I hits at her
en misses her } Er s'posen I des woun's
her, en she gits erway, — w'at she gwine
do ter me den .-' '
" ' I is done studied 'bout all dem
things,' sez de cunjuh man, 'en it 'pears
ter me de bes' plan fer you ter foller is
ter lemme tu'n you ter some creetur
The Gray Wolfs Hdnt 183
w'at kin see in de da'k, en w'at kin run
des ez fas' ez a cat, en w'at kin bite,
en bite fer ter kill ; en den you won't
hafter hab no trouble atter de job is
done. I dunno whuther you 'd lack dat
er no, but dat is de sho'es' way.'
" * I doan keer,' 'spon' Dan, ' I 'd
des ez lief be anything fer a' hour er so,
ef I kin kill dat ole witch. You kin do
des w'at you er mineter.'
"'All right, den,' sez de cunjuh man,
'you come down ter my cabin at half-
past nine o'clock ter-night, en I '11 fix
" Now, dis cunjuh man, w'en he had
got th'oo talkin' wid Dan, kep' on down
de road 'long de side er de plantation,
'tel he met Mahaly comin' home fum
wuk des atter sundown.
" ' Hoddy do, ma'm,' sezee ; * is yo'
name Sis' Mahaly, w'at b'longs ter Mars
Dugal' McAdoo .? '
"'Yas,' 'spon' Mahaly, 'dat's my
name, en I b'longs ter Mars Dugal'.'
1 84 The Conjure Woman
[\ « i Well/ sezee, ' yo' husban' Dan wuz
down by my cabin dis ebenin*, en he got
bit by a spider er sump'n, en his foot is
swoir up so he can't walk. En he ax'
me fer ter fin' you en fetch you down
dere ter he'p 'im home.'
"Co'se Mahaly wanter see w'at had
happen' ter Dan, en so she sta'ted down
de road wid de cunjuh man. Ez soon
ez he got her inter his cabin, he shet de
do', en sprinkle' some goopher mixtry
on her, en tu'nt her ter a black cat.
Den he tuk'n put her in a bairl, en put
a bo'd on de bairl, en a rock on de bo'd,
en lef her dere 'tel he got good en
ready fer ter use her.
"'Long 'bout half -pas' nine o'clock
Dan come down ter de cunjuh man's
cabin. It wuz a wa'm night, en de do'
wuz stan'in' open. De cunjuh man
'vited Dan ter come in, en pass' de
time er day wid 'im. Ez soon ez Dan
'mence' talkin', he beared a cat miauin'
The Gray Wolfs Hcint 185
en scratchin' en gwine on at a tarrable
" ' Wat 's all dat fuss 'bout ? ' ax' Dan.
" ' Oh, dat ain' nuffin but my ole gray
tomcat,' sez de cunjuh man. * I has
ter shet 'im up sometimes fer ter keep
'im in nights', en co'se he doan lack it.
" * Now,' 'lows de cunjuh man, ' lemme
tell you des w'at you is got ter do.
Wen you ketches dis witch, you mus*
take her right by de th'oat en bite her
right th'oo de neck. Be sho' yo' teef
goes th'oo at de fus' bite, en den you
won't nebber be bothe'd no mo' by dat
witch. En w'en you git done, come
back heah en I '11 tu'n you ter yo'se'f
ag'in, so you kin go home en git yo'
"Den de cunjuh man gun Dan
sump'n nice en sweet ter drink out'n a
new go'd, en in 'bout a minute Dan foun'
hisse'f tu'nt ter a gray wolf ; en soon
ez he felt all fo' er his noo feet on de
1 86 The Conjure Woman
groun', he sta'ted off fas' ez he could far
his own cabin, so he could be sho' en be
dere time ernuff ter ketch de witch, en
put a' een' ter her kyarin's-on.
" Ez soon ez Dan wuz gone good, de
cunjuh man tuk de rock off'n de bo'd,
en de bo'd off'n de bairl, en out le'p'
Mahaly en sta'ted fer ter go home, des
lack a cat er a 'oman er anybody e'se
would w'at wuz in trouble ; en it wa'n't
many minutes befo' she wuz gwine up
de path ter her own do'.
" Meanw'iles, w'en Dan had retch' de
cabin, he had hid hisse'f in a bunch er
jimson weeds in de ya'd. He hadn'
wait' long befo' he seed a black cat run
up de path to'ds de do'. Des ez soon
ez she got close ter 'im, he le'p' out en
ketch' her by de th'oat, en got a grip
on her, des lack de cunjuh man had tol'
'im ter do. En lo en behol' ! no sooner
had de blood 'mence' ter flow dan de
black cat tu'nt back ter Mahaly, en Dan
The Gray Wolfs Hd nt 1S7
seed dat he had killt his own wife. En
w'iles her bref wuz gwine she call' out :
" * O Dan ! O my husban' ! come en
he'p me ! come en sabe me fum dis wolf
w'at 's killin' me ! '
"Wen po' Dan sta'ted to'ds her, ez
any man nach'ly would, it des made her
holler wuss en wuss ; fer she did n'
knowed dis yer wolf wuz her Dan. En
Dan des had ter hide in de weeds, en
grit his teef en hoi' hisse'f in, 'tel she
passed out'n her mis'ry, callin' fer Dan ter
de las', en wond'rin' w'y he did n' come
en he'p her. En Dan 'lowed ter hisse'f
he 'd ruther 'a' be'n killt a dozen times 'n
ter 'a' done w'at he had ter Mahaly.
" Dan wuz mighty nigh 'stracted, but
w'en Mahaly wuz dead en he got his
min' straighten' out a little, it did n'
take 'im mo' d'n a minute er so fer ter
see th'oo all de cunjuh man's lies, en
how de cunjuh man had fooled 'im en
made 'im kill Mahaly, fer ter git eben
The Conjure Woman
wid 'im fer killin' er his son. He kep'
gittin' madder en madder, en Mahaly
had n' much mo' d'n drawed her' las bret
befo' he sta'ted back ter de cunjuh
man's cabin ha'd ez he could run.
" Wen he got dere, de do' wuz stan'in'
open ; a light erd-knot wuz flick' rin' on
de h'a'th, en de ole cunjuh man wuz
settin' dere noddin' in de corner. Dan
le'p' in de do' en jump' fer dis man's
th'oat, en got de same grip on 'im w'at
de cunjuh man had tol' 'im 'bout half a'
hour befo'. It wuz ha'd wuk dis time,
fer de ole man's neck wuz monst'us
tough en stringy, but Dan hilt on long
ernuff ter be sho' his job wuz done
right. En eben den he did n' hoi' on
long ernuff ; fer w'en he tu'nt de cun-
juh man loose en he fell ober on de jflo',
de cunjuh man rollt his eyes at Dan, en
sezee : —
" * I 's eben wid you, Brer Dan, en
you er eben wid me ; you killt my son
The Gray Wolfs Hdnt 189
en I killt yo' 'oman. En ez I doan want
no mo' d'n w'at 's fair 'bout dis thing,
ef you '11 retch up wid yo' paw en take
down dat go'd hangin' on dat peg ober
de chimbly, en take a sip er dat mixtry,
it '11 tu'n you back ter a nigger ag'in,
en I kin die mo' sad'sfied 'n ef I lef
you lack you is.'
" Dan nebber 'lowed fer a minute dat
a man would lie wid his las' bref, en
co'se he seed de sense er gittin' tu'nt
back befo' de cunjuh man died; so he
dumb on a chair en retch' fer de go'd, en
tuk a sip er de mixtry. En ez soon ez
he'd done dat de cunjuh man lafft his
las' laf, en gapsed out wid 'is las' gaps : —
" ' Uh huh ! I reckon I 's square wid
you now fer killin' me, too ; fer dat
goopher on you is done fix' en sot now
fer good, en all de cunj'in' in de worl'
won't nebber take it off.
' Wolf you is en wolf you stays,
All de rest er yo' bawn days.'
IQO The Co7ijure Woman
" Co'se Brer Dan could n' do nuffin.
He knowed it wa'n't no use, but he
dumb up on de chimbly en got down
de go'ds en bottles en yuther cunjuh
fixin's, en tried 'em all on hisse'f, but dey
didn' do no good. Den he run down
ter ole Aun' Peggy, but she did n' know
de wolf langwidge, en couldn't 'a' tuk
off dis yuther goopher nohow, eben ef
she 'd 'a' unnerstood w'at Dan wuz sayin'.
So po' Dan wuz bleedgd ter be a wolf all
de rest er his bawn days.
" Dey foun' Mahaly down by her own
cabin nex' mawnin', en eve'ybody made
a great 'miration 'bout how she 'd be'n
killt. De niggers 'lowed a wolf had bit
her. De w'ite folks say no, dey ain' be'n
no wolves 'roun' dere fer ten yeahs er
mo' ; en dey did n' know w'at ter make
out'n it. En w'en dey could n' fin' Dan
nowhar, dey 'lowed he 'd quo'lled wid
Mahaly en killt her, en run erway ; en
dey did n' know w'at ter make er dat.
The Gray Wolfs Hant 191
fer Dan en Mahaly wuz de mos' lovin'
couple on de plantation. Dey put de
dawgs on Dan's scent, en track' 'im
down ter ole Unk' Jube's cabin, en
foun' de ole man dead, en dey did n'
know w'at ter make er dat ; en den
Dan's scent gun out, en dey did n'
know w'at ter make er dat. Mars
Dugal' tuk on a heap 'bout losin' two er
his bes' ban's in one day, en ole missis
'lowed it wuz a jedgment on 'im fer
sump'n he 'd done. But dat fall de
craps wuz monst'us big, so Mars Dugal'
say de Lawd had temper' de win' ter de
sho'n ram, en make up ter 'im fer w'at
he had los'.
"Dey buried Mahaly down in dat
piece er low groun' you er talkin' 'bout
cl'arin' up. Ez fer po' Dan, he didn'
hab nowhar e'se ter go, so he des stayed
'roun' Mahaly's grabe, w'en he wa'n't
out in de yuther woods gittin' sump'n
ter eat. En sometimes, w'en night
192 The Conjtife Woman
would come, de niggers useter heah
him howlin' en howlin' down dere, des
fittin' ter break his hea't. En den some
mo' un 'em said dey seed Mahaly's ha'nt
dere 'bun'ance er times, colloguin' wid
dis gray wolf. En eben now, fifty yeahs
sence, long atter ole Dan has died en
dried up in de woods, his ha'nt en Ma-
haly's hangs 'roun' dat piece er low
groun', en eve'body w'at goes 'bout dere
has some bad luck er 'nuther ; f er ha'nts
doan lack ter be 'sturb' on dey own
The air had darkened while the old
man related this harrowing tale. The
rising wind whistled around the eaves,
slammed the loose window-shutters, and,
still increasing, drove the rain in fiercer
gusts into the piazza. As Julius finished
his story and we rose to seek shelter
within doors, the blast caught the angle
of some chimney or gable in the rear of
the house, and bore to our ears a long,
The Gray Wolfs Hcint 193
wailing note, an epitome, as it were, of
remorse and hopelessness.
" Dat 's des lack po' ole Dan useter
howl," observed Julius, as he reached
for his umbrella, " en w'at I be'n tellin'
you is de reason I doan lack ter see
dat neck er woods cl'ared up. Co'se it
b'longs ter you, en a man kin do ez he
choose' wid 'is own. But ef you gits
rheumatiz er fever en agur, er ef you
er snake-bit er p'isen' wid some yarb er
'nuther, er ef a tree falls on you, er a
ha'nt runs you en makes you git 'stracted
in yo' min', lack some folks I knows w'at
went foolin' 'roun' dat piece er Ian', you
can't say I neber wa'ned you, sub, en
tol' you w'at you mought look fer en be
sho' ter fin'."
When I cleared up the land in ques-
tion, which was not until the following
year, I recalled the story Julius had
told us, and looked in vain for a sunken
194 T^Ji^ Conjtire Wo^nan
grave or perhaps a few weather-bleached
bones of some denizen of the forest. I
cannot say, of course, that some one
had not been buried there ; but if so,
the hand of time had long since removed
any evidence of the fact. If some lone
wolf, the last of his pack, had once made
his den there, his bones had long since
crumbled into dust and gone to fertilize
the rank vegetation that formed the un-
dergrowth of this wild spot. I did find,
however, a bee-tree in the woods, with
an ample cavity in its trunk, and an
opening through which convenient ac-
cess could be had to the stores of honey
within. I have reason to believe that
ever since I had bought the place, and
for many y^ars before, Julius had been
getting honey from this tree. The gray
wolf's haunt had doubtless proved use-
ful in keeping off too inquisitive people,
who might have interfered with his
" I HATE you and despise you ! I
wish never to see you or speak to you
again ! "
" Very well ; I will take care that
henceforth you have no opportunity to
These words — the first in the pas-
sionately vibrant tones of my sister-in-
law, and the latter in the deeper and
more restrained accents of an angry
man — startled me from my nap. I had
been dozing in my hammock on the
front piazza, behind the honeysuckle
vine. I had been faintly aware of a
buzz of conversation in the parlor, but
had not at all awakened to its import
until these sentences fell, or, I might
rather say, were hurled upon my ear. I
presume the young people had either
196 The Co7ipt.re Woman
not seen me lying there, — the Vene-
tian blinds opening from the parlor win-
dows upon the piazza were partly closed
on account of the heat, — or else in
their excitement they had forgotten my
I felt somewhat concerned. The
young man, I had remarked, was proud,
firm, jealous of the point of honor, and,
from my observation of him, quite likely
to resent to the bitter end what he
deemed a slight or an injustice. The
girl, I knew, was quite as high-spirited
as young Murchison. I feared she was
not so just, and hoped she would prove
more yielding. I knew that her affec-
tions were strong and enduring, but that
her temperament was capricious, and
her sunniest moods easily overcast by
some small cloud of jealousy or pique.
I had never imagined, however, that she
was capable of such intensity as was
revealed by these few words of hers.
Hot-Foot Hannibal 197
As I say, I felt concerned. I had
learned to like Malcolm Murchison, and
had heartily consented to his marriage
with my ward ; for it was in that capa-
city that I had stood for a year or two to
my wife's younger sister, Mabel. The
match thus rudely broken off had pro-
mised to be another link binding me
to the kindly Southern people among
whom I had not long before taken up
Young Murchison came out of the
door, cleared the piazza in two strides
without seeming aware of my presence,
and went off down the lane at a furi-
ous pace. A few moments later Mabel
began playing the piano loudly, with a
touch that indicated anger and pride and
independence and a dash of exultation,
as though she were really glad that she
had driven away forever the young man
whom the day before she had loved with
all the ardor of a first passion.
198 The Conjure Woman
I hoped that time might heal the
breach and bring the two young people
together again. I told my wife what I
had overheard. In return she gave me
Mabel's version of the affair.
" I do not see how it can ever be set-
tled," my wife said, " It is something
more than a mere lovers' quarrel. It
began, it is true, because she found fault
with him for going to church with that
hateful Branson girl. But before it
ended there were things said that no
woman of any spirit could stand. I am
afraid it is all over between them."
I was sorry to hear this. In spite of
the very firm attitude taken by my wife
and her sister, I still hoped that the
quarrel would be made up within a day
or two. Nevertheless, when a week had
passed with no word from young Mur-
chison, and with no sign of relenting on
Mabel's part, I began to think myself
Hot-Foot Hannibal 199
One pleasant afternoon, about ten
days after the rupture, old Julius drove
the rockaway up to the piazza, and my
wife, Mabel, and I took our seats for a
drive to a neighbor's vineyard, over on
the Lumberton plank-road.
" Which way shall we go," I asked,
— " the short road or the long one ? "
" I guess we had better take the short
road," answered my wife. '' We will get
" It 's a mighty fine dribe roun' by de
big road, Mis' Annie," observed Julius,
" en it doan take much longer to git
"No," said my wife, " I think we will
go by the short road. There is a bay-
tree in blossom near the mineral spring,
and I wish to get some of the flowers."
" I 'spec's you 'd fin' some bay-trees
'long de big road, ma'm," suggested
" But I know about the flowers on the
200 The Conjure Woman
short road, and they are the ones I
We drove down the lane to the high-
way, and soon struck into the short road
leading past the mineral spring. Our
route lay partly through a swamp, and
on each side the dark, umbrageous foli-
age, unbroken by any clearing, lent to
the road solemnity, and to the air a re-
freshing coolness. About half a mile
from the house, and about half-way to
the mineral spring, we stopped at the
tree of which my wife had spoken, and
reaching up to the low-hanging boughs, I
gathered a dozen of the fragrant white
flowers. When I resumed my seat in
the rockaway, Julius started the mare.
She went on for a few rods, until we
had reached the edge of a branch cross-
ing the road, when she stopped short.
" Why did you stop, Julius .'' " I
" I did n', suh," he repHed. " 'T wuz
Hot-Foot Hafinibal 201
de mare stop'. G' 'long dere, Lucy !
Wat you mean by dis foolis'ness ? "
Julius jerked the reins and applied the
whip lightly, but the mare did not stir.
" Perhaps you had better get down
and lead her," I suggested, " If you
get her started, you can cross on the
log and keep your feet dry."
Julius alighted, took hold of the bri-
dle, and vainly essayed to make the mare
move. She planted her feet with even
more evident obstinacy.
" I don't know what to make of this,"
I said. " I have never known her to
balk before. Have you, Julius .-* "
"No, suh," replied the old man, "I
neber has. It 's a cu'ous thing ter me,
" What 's the best way to make her
" I 'spec's, suh, dat ef I 'd tu'n her
'roun', she 'd go de udder way."
" But we want her to go this way."
202 The Conjure Woman
" Well, suh, I 'low ef we des set heah
fo' er fibe minutes, she '11 sta't up by
"All right," I rejoined; "it is cooler
here than any place I have struck to-
day. We '11 let her stand for a while,
and see what she does."
We had sat in silence for a few min-
utes, when Julius suddenly ejaculated,
" Uh huh ! I knows w'y dis mare doan
go. It des flash' 'cross my recommem-
" Why is it, Julius ? " I inquired.
"'Ca'se she sees Chloe."
"Where is Chloe .^ " I demanded.
" Chloe 's done be'n dead dese fo'ty
years er mo'," the old man returned.
" Her ha'nt is settin' ober yander on
de udder side er de branch, unner dat
wilier-tree, dis blessed minute."
"Why, Julius!" said my wife, "do
you see the haunt .-* "
" No 'm," he answered, shaking his
Hot-Foot Hannibal 20$
head, " I doan see 'er, but de mare sees
" How do you know ? " I inquired.
" Well, suh, dis yer is a gray boss, en
dis yer is a Friday ; en a gray boss kin
alluz see a ba'nt w'at walks on Friday."
" Who was Cbloe?" said Mabel.
*' And why does Cbloe' s haunt walk ? "
asked my wife.
"It's all in de tale, raa'm," Julius
replied, with a deep sigh. " It 's all in
" Tell us the tale," I said. " Perhaps,
by the time you get through, the haunt
will go away and the mare will cross."
I was willing to humor the old man's
fancy. He bad not told us a story for
some time ; and the dark and solemn
swamp around us ; the amber-colored
stream flowing silently and sluggishly
at our feet, like the waters of Lethe ;
the heavy, aromatic scent of the bays,
faintly suggestive of funeral wreaths, —
204 "^^^^ Co7ijure Woman
all made the place an ideal one for a
" Chloe," Julius began in a subdued
tone, " use' ter b'long ter ole Mars' Du-
gal' McAdoo, — my ole marster. She
wuz a lackly gal en a smart gal, en ole
mis' tuk her up ter de big house, en
I'arnt her ter wait on de w'ite folks, 'tel
bimeby she come ter be mis's own maid,
en 'peared ter 'low she run de house
herse'f, ter heah her talk erbout it. I
wuz a young boy den, en use' ter wuk
'bout de stables, so I knowed eve'ythin'
dat wuz gwine on 'roun' de plantation.
" Well, one time Mars' Dugal' wanted
a house boy, en sont down ter de qua'-
ters fer ter hab Jeff en Hannibal come
up ter de big house nex' mawnin'. Ole
marster en ole mis' look' de two boys
ober, en 'sco'sed wid deyseVes fer a little
w'ile, en den Mars' Dugal' sez, sezee : —
" ' We lacks Hannibal de bes', en we
gwine ter keep him. Heah, Hannibal,
Hot-Foot Hannibal 205
you '11 wuk at de house fum now on.
En ef you er a good nigger en min's
yo' bizness, I '11 gib you Chloe fer a
wife nex' spring. You other nigger, you
Jeff, you kin go back ter de qua'ters.
We ain' gwine ter need you.'
"Now Chloe had be'n stan'in' dere
behin' ole mis' dyoin' all er dis yer talk,
en Chloe made up her min' fum de ve'y
fus' minute she sot eyes on dem two dat
she did n' lack dat nigger Hannibal, en
wa'n't neber gwine keer fer 'im, en she
wuz des ez sho' dat she lack' Jeff, en wuz
gwine ter set sto' by 'im, whuther Mars'
Dugal' tuk 'im in de big house er no ;
en so co'se Chloe wuz monst'us sorry
w'en ole Mars' Dugal' tuk Hannibal en
sont Jeff back. So she slip' roun' de
house en waylaid Jeff on de way back
ter de qua'ters, en tol' 'im not ter be
down-hea'ted, fer she wuz gwine ter see
ef she could n' fin' some way er 'nuther
ter git rid er dat nigger Hannibal, en git
Jeff up ter de house in his place.
2o6 The Conjure Woman
"■ De noo house boy kotch' on monst'us
fas', en it wa'n't no time ha'dly befo'
Mars' Dugal' en ole mis' bofe 'mence'
ter 'low Hannibal wuz de bes' house boy
dey eber had. He wuz peart en soopl',
quick ez lightnin', en sha'p ez a razor.
But Chloe did n' lack his ways. He wuz
so sho' he wuz gwine ter git 'er in de
spring, dat he did n' 'pear ter 'low he
had ter do any co'tin', en w'en he 'd run
'cross Chloe 'bout de house, he 'd swell
roun' 'er in a biggity way en say : —
\ " ' Come heah en kiss me, honey.
\ You gwine ter be mine in de spring.
i You doan 'pear ter be ez fon' er me ez
you oughter be.'
" Chloe did n' keer nuffin fer Hanni-
bal, en had n' keered nuffin fer 'im, en
she sot des ez much sto' by Jeff ez she
did de day she fus' laid eyes on 'im.
En de mo' fermilyus dis yer Hannibal
got, de mo' Chloe let her min' run on
Jeff, en one ebenin' she went down ter
Hot-Foot Hannibal 207
de qua'ters en watch', 'tel she got a
chance fer ter talk vvid 'im by hisse'f.
En she tol' Jeff fer ter go down en see
ole Aun' Peggy, de cunjuh 'oman down
by de Wim'l'ton Road, en ax her ter gib
'im sump'n ter he'p git Hannibal out'n
de big house, so de w'ite folks 'u'd sen'
fer Jeff ag'in. En bein' ez Jeff did n'
hab nufifin ter gib Aun' Peggy, Chloe
gun 'im a silber dollah en a silk han'-
kercher fer ter pay her wid, fer Aun'
Peggy neber lack ter wuk fer nobody
" So Jeff slip' off down ter Aun' Peg-
gy's one night, en gun 'er de present he
brung, en tol' 'er all 'bout 'im en Chloe
en Hannibal, en ax' 'er ter he'p 'im out.
Aun' Peggy tol' 'im she 'd wuk 'er roots,
en fer 'im ter come back de nex' night,
en she 'd tell 'im w'at she c'd do fer 'ira.
"So de nex' night Jell" went back, en
Aun' Peggy gun 'im a baby doll, wid a
body made out'n a piece er co'n-stalk,
2o8 The Conjiire Woman
en wid splinters fer a'ms en laigs, en a
head made out'n elderberry path, en
two little red peppers fer feet.
" ' Dis yer baby doll,' sez she, ' is Han-
nibal. Dis yer peth head is Hannibal's
head, en dese yer pepper feet is Hanni-
bal's feet. You take dis en hide it unner
de house, on de sill unner de do', whar
Hannibal '11 hafter walk ober it eve'y day.
En ez long ez Hannibal comes anywhar
nigh dis baby doll, he '11 be des lack it is,
— light-headed en hot-footed ; en ef dem
two things doan git 'im inter trouble
mighty soon, den I 'm no cunjuh 'oman.
But w'en you git Hannibal out'n de
house, en git all th'oo wid dis baby doll,
you mus' fetch it back ter me, fer it 's
monst'us powerful goopher, en is liable
ter make mo' trouble ef you leabe it
lay in' roun'.'
" Well, Jeff tuk de baby doll, en slip'
up ter de big house, en whistle' ter
Chloe, en w'en she come out he tol' 'er
Hot-Foot Hannibal 209
w'at ole Aim' Peggy had said. En
Chloe showed 'im how ter git unner de
house, en w'en he had put de cunjuh
doll on de sill, he went 'long back ter de
qua'ters — en des waited.
" Nex' day, sho' 'nuff, de goopher
'mence' ter wuk. Hannibal sta'ted in
de house soon in de mawnin' wid a arm-
ful er wood ter make a fire, en he had n'
mo' d'n got 'cross de do'-sill befo' his feet
begun ter bu'n so dat he drap' de armful
er wood on de fio' en woke ole mis' up a'
hour sooner 'n yushal, en co'se ole mis'
didn' lack dat, en spoke sha'p erbout it.
"W'en dinner-time come, en Hanni-
bal wuz help'n' de cook kyar de dinner
f'm de kitchen inter de big house, en
wuz gittin' close ter de do' whar he had
ter go in, his feet sta'ted ter bu'n en his
head begun ter swim, en he let de big
dish er chicken en dumplin's fall right
down in de dirt, in de middle er de ya'd,
en de w'ite folks had ter make dey din-
2IO The Conjure Woman
ner dat day off' n col' ham en sweet'n'
" De nex' mawnin' he overslep' his-
se'f, en got inter mo' trouble. Atter
breakfus', Mars' Dugal' sont 'im ober
ter Mars' Marrabo Utley's fer ter borry
a monkey wrench. He oughter be'n
back in ha'f a' hour, but he come pokin'
home 'bout dinner-time wid a screw-
driver stidder a monkey wrench. Mars'
Dugal' sont ernudder nigger back wid de
screw-driver, en Hannibal did n' git no
dinner. 'Long in de atternoon, ole mis'
sot Hannibal ter weedin' de flowers in
de front gya'den, en Hannibal dug up
all de bulbs ole mis' had sont erway fer,
en paid a lot er money fer, en tuk 'em
down ter de hawg-pen by de ba'nya'd,
en fed 'em ter de hawgs. Wen ole mis'
come out in de cool er de ebenin', en
seed w'at Hannibal had done, she wuz
mos' crazy, en she wrote a note en sont
Hannibal down ter de oberseah wid it.
Hot-Foot Hamiibal 211
" But w'at Hannibal got fum de ober-
seah did n' 'pear ter do no good. Eve'y
now en den 'is feet 'd 'mence ter tor-
ment 'im, en 'is min' 'u'd git all mix' up,
en his conduc' kep' gittin' wusser en
wusser, 'tel fin'lly de w'ite folks could n'
Stan' it no longer, en Mars' Dugal' tuk
Hannibal back down ter de qua'ters.
'"Mr. Smif,' sez Mars' Dugal' ter de
oberseah, ' dis yer nigger has done got
so triflin' yer lately dat we can't keep
'im at de house no mo', en I 's fotch'
'im ter you ter be straighten' up. You 's
had 'casion ter deal wid 'im once, so he
knows w'at ter expec'. You des take
'im in han', en lemme know how he
tu'ns out. En w'en de ban's comes in
fum de fiel' dis ebenin' you kin sen'
dat yaller nigger Jeff up ter de house.
I '11 try 'im, en see ef he 's any better 'n
" So Jeff went up ter de big house,
en pleas' Mars' Dugal' en ole mis' en
212 The Conjure Woman
de res' er de fambly so well dat dey all
got ter lackin' 'im fus'rate ; en dey 'd 'a'
fergot all 'bout Hannibal, ef it had n'
be'n fer de bad repo'ts w'at come up
fum de qua'ters 'bout 'im fer a mont' er
so. Fac' is, dat Chloe en Jeff wuz so
int'rusted in one ernudder sence Jeff
be'n up ter de house, dat dey fergot all
'bout takin' de baby doll back ter Aun'
Peggy, en it kep' wukkin' fer a w'ile, en
makin' Hannibal's feet bu'n mo' er less,
'tel all de folks on de plantation got ter
callin' 'im Hot-Foot Hannibal. He kep'
gittin' mo' en mo' triflin', 'tel he got de
name er bein' de mos' no 'countes' nig-
ger on de plantation, en Mars' Dugal'
had ter th'eaten ter sell 'im in de spring,
w'en bimeby de goopher quit wukkin',
en Hannibal 'mence' ter pick up some
en make folks set a little mo' sto' by 'im.
" Now, dis yer Hannibal was a mon-
st'us sma't nigger, en w'en he got rid er
dem so' feet, his min' kep' runnin' on 'is
Hot-Foot Hannibal 213
udder troubles. Heah th'ee er fo' weeks
befo' he 'd had a' easy job, waitin' on
de w'ite folks, libbin' off' n de fat er de
Ian', en promus' de fines' gal on de plan-
tation fer a wife in de spring, en now
heah he wuz back in de co'n-fiel', wid de
oberseah a-cussin' en a-r'arin' ef he
did n' get a ha'd tas' done ; wid nuffin
but co'n bread en bacon en merlasses ter
eat ; en all de fiel'-han's makin' rema'ks,
en pokin' fun at 'im 'ca'se he'd be'n sont
back fum de big house ter de fiel'. En
de mo' Hannibal studied 'bout it de mo'
madder he got, 'tel he fin'lly swo' he wuz
gwine ter git eben wid Jeff en Chloe, ef
it wuz de las' ac'.
"So Hannibal slipped 'way fum de
qua'ters one Sunday en hid in de co'n
up close ter de big house, 'tel he see
Chloe gwine down de road. He way-
laid her, en sezee : —
« * Roddy, Chloe ? '
" * I ain' got no time fer ter fool wid
214 TJie Conjnre Woman
fiel'-han's,' sez Chloe, tossin' her head ;
* w'at you want wid me, Hot-Foot ? '
" ' I wants ter know how you en Jeff
is gittin' 'long.'
" ' I 'lows dat 's none er yo' bizness,
nigger. I doan see w'at 'casion any com-
mon fiel'-han' has got ter mix in wid de
'fairs er folks w'at libs in de big house.
But ef it '11 do you any good ter know,
I mought say dat me en Jeff is gittin'
'long mighty well, en we gwine ter git
married in de spring, en you ain' gwine
ter be 'vited ter de weddin' nuther.'
" ' No, no ! ' sezee, ' I would n' 'spec'
ter be 'vited ter de weddin', — a com-
mon, low-down fiel'-han' lack / is. But
I 's glad ter heah you en Jeff is gittin'
'long so well. I did n' knowed but w'at
he had 'mence' ter be a little ti'ed.'
" ' Ti'ed er me t Dat 's rediklus ! '
sez Chloe. ' W'y, dat nigger lubs me so
I b'liebe he 'd go th'oo fire en water fer
me. Dat nigger is des wrop' up in me.'
Hot-Foot Hafmibal 21^
*" Uh huh,' sez Hannibal, 'den I
reckon it mus' be some udder nigger
w'at meets a 'oman down by de crick in
de swamp eve'y Sunday ebenin', ter say
nuffin 'bout two er th'ee times a week.'
" ' Yas, hit is ernudder nigger, en 3"0U
is a liah w'en you say it wuz Jeff.'
" * Mebbe I is a Hah, en mebbe I ain'
got good eyes. But 'less'n I is a liah,
en 'less'n I aiii got good eyes, Jeff is
gwine ter meet dat 'oman dis ebenin'
'long 'bout eight o'clock right down dere
by de crick in de swamp 'bout half-way
betwix' dis plantation en Mars' Marrabo
" Well, Chloe tol' Hannibal she did n'
b'liebe a wo'd he said, en call' 'im a low-
down nigger, who wuz tryin' ter slander
Jeff 'ca'se he wuz mo' luckier 'n he wuz.
But all de same, she could n' keep her
min' fum runnin' on w'at Hannibal had
said. She 'membered she 'd beared one
er de niggers say dey wuz a gal ober at
2i6 The Conjure Woman
Mars' Marrabo Utley's plantation w'at
Jeff use' ter go wid some befo' he got
'quainted wid Chloe. Den she 'mence'
ter figger back, en sho' 'nuff, dey wuz
two er th'ee times in de las' week w'en
she 'd be'n he'pin' de ladies wid dey
dressin' en udder fixin's in de ebenin', en
Jeff mought 'a' gone down ter de swamp
widout her knowin' 'bout it at all. En
den she 'mence' ter 'member little things
w'at she had n' tuk no notice of befo',
en w'at 'u'd make it 'pear lack Jeff had
sump'n on his min'.
" Chloe set a monst'us heap er sto' by
Jeff, en would 'a' done mos' anythin'
fer 'im, so long ez he stuck ter her. But
Chloe wuz a mighty jealous 'oman, en
w'iles she did n' b'liebe w'at Hannibal
said, she seed how it conld 'a' be'n so,
en she 'termine' fer ter fin' out fer her-
se'f whuther it wuz so er no.
" Now, Chloe had n' seed Jeff all day,
fer Mars' Dugal' had sont Jeff ober ter
Hot-Foot Hamiibal 217
his daughter's house, young Mis' Ma'-
g'ret's, w'at Hbbed 'bout fo' miles fum
Mars' Dugal's, en Jeff wuz n' 'spected
home 'tel ebenin'. But des atter supper
wuz ober, en w'iles de ladies wuz settin'
out on de piazzer, Chloe slip' off fum de
house en run down de road, — dis yer
same road we come; en w'en she got
mos' ter de crick — dis yer same crick
right befo' us — she kin' er kep' in de
bushes at de side er de road, 'tel fin'lly
she seed Jeff settin' on de bank on de
udder side er de crick, — right unner dat
ole wilier-tree droopin' ober de water
yander. En eve'y now en den he 'd git
up en look up de road to'ds Mars' Mar-
rabo's on de udder side er de swamp.
" Fus' Chloe felt lack she 'd go right
ober de crick en gib Jeff a piece er her
min'. Den she 'lowed she better be sho'
befo' she done anythin'. So she helt
herse'f in de bes' she could, gittin' mad-
der en madder eve'y minute, 'tel bimeby
2l8 The Conjure Woman
she seed a 'oman comin' down de road on
de udder side fum to'ds Mars' Marrabo
Utley's plantation. En w'en she seed
Jeff jump up en run to'ds dat 'oman, en
th'ow his a'ms roun' her neck, po' Chloe
did n' stop ter see no mo', but des tu'nt
roun' en run up ter de house, en rush'
up on de piazzer, en up en tol' Mars'
Dugal' en ole mis' all 'bout de baby doll,
en all 'bout Jeff gittin' de goopher fum
Aun' Peggy, en 'bout w'at de goopher
had done ter Hannibal.
" Mars' Dugal' wuz monst'us mad.
He did n' let on at fus' lack he b'liebed
Chloe, but w'en she tuk en showed 'im
whar ter fin' de baby doll. Mars' Dugal'
tu'nt w'ite ez chalk.
" ' W'at debil's wuk is dis .-* ' sezee.
' No wonder de po' nigger's feet eetched.
Sump'n got ter be done ter I'arn dat ole
witch ter keep her ban's off'n my nig-
gers. En ez fer dis yer Jeff, I 'm gwine
ter do des w'at I promus', so de darkies
Hot-Foot Hannibal 2ig
on dis plantation '11 know I means w'at
" Fer Mars' Dugal' had warned de
ban's befo' 'bout foolin' wid cunju'ation ;
fac', he had los' one er two niggers his-
se'f fum dey bein' goophered, en he
would 'a' had ole Ann' Peggy whip' long
ago, on'y Aun' Peggy wuz a free 'oman,
en he wuz 'feard she 'd cunjuh him. En
w'iles Mars' Dugal' say he did n' b'liebe
in cunj'in' en sich, he 'peared ter 'low it
wuz bes' ter be on de safe side, en let
Aun' Peggy alone.
" So Mars' Dugal' done des ez he say.
Ef ole mis' had ple'd fer Jeff, he mought
'a' kep' 'im. But ole mis' had n' got
ober losin' dem bulbs yit, en she neber
said a wo'd. Mars' Dugal' tuk Jeff ter
town nex' day en' sol' 'im ter a spekila-
ter, who sta'ted down de ribber wid 'im
nex' mawnin' on a steamboat, fer ter
take 'im ter Alabama.
" Now, w'en Chloe tol' ole Mars' Du-
220 The Co7ijure Woman
gal' 'bout dis yer baby doll en dis udder
goopher, she had n' ha'dly 'lowed Mars'
Dugal' would sell Jeff down Souf. How-
someber, she wuz so mad wid Jeff dat
she 'suaded herse'f she did n' keer ; en
so she hilt her head up en went roun'
lookin' lack she wuz rale glad 'bout it.
But one day she wuz walkin' down de
road, w'en who sh'd come 'long but dis
" W'en Hannibal seed 'er, he bus' out
laffin' fittin' fer ter kill: 'Yah, yah,
yah ! ho, ho, ho ! ha, ha, ha ! Oh, hoi'
me, honey, hoi' me, er I '11 laf myse'f ter
def. I ain' nebber laf so much sence I
" ' Wat you laffin' at, Hot-Foot ? '
" ' Yah, yah, yah ! Wat I laffin' at }
W'y, I 's laffin' at myse'f, tooby sho', —
laffin' ter think w'at a fine 'oman I
" Chloe tu'nt pale, en her hea't come
up in her mouf.
Hot-Foot Hannibal 221
" ' Wat you mean, nigger ? ' sez she,
ketchin' holt er a bush by de road fer
ter stiddy herse'f. ' Wat you mean by
de kin' er 'oman you made ? '
" ' Wat do I mean ? I means dat I
got squared up wid you fer treatin' me
de way you done, en I got eben wid dat
yaller nigger Jeff fer cuttin' me out.
Now, he 's gwine ter know w'at it is ter
eat co'n bread en merlasses once mo',
en wuk fum daylight ter da'k, en ter
hab a oberseah dribin' 'im fum one day's
een' ter de udder. I means dat I sont
wo'd ter Jeff dat Sunday dat you wuz
gwine ter be ober ter Mars' Marrabo's
visitin' dat ebenin', en you want 'im
ter meet you down by de crick on de
way home en go de rest er de road wid
you. En den I put on a frock en a sun-
bonnet, en fix' myse'f up ter look lack a
'oman ; en w'en Jeff seed me comin', he
run ter meet me, en you seed 'im, — fer
I 'd be'n watchin' in de bushes befo' en
222 The Conjure Woman
'skivered you comin' down de road. En
now I reckon you en Jeff bofe knows
w'at it means ter mess wid a nigger
" Po' Chloe had n' beared mo' d'n half
er de las' part er w'at Hannibal said,
but she had beared 'nuff to I'arn dat dis
nigger had fooled her en Jeff, en dat po'
Jeff had n' done nuffin, en dat fer lov-
in' her too much en goin' ter meet her
she had cause' 'im ter be sol' erway whar
she 'd neber, neber see 'im no mo'.
De sun mought shine by day, de moon
by night, de flowers mought bloom, en
de mawkin'-birds mought sing, but po'
Jeff wuz done los' ter her fereber en
" Hannibal had n' mo' d'n finish' w'at
he had ter say, w'en Chloe's knees gun
'way unner her, en she fell down in de
/' road, en lay dere half a' hour er so befo'
she come to. W'en she did, she crep'
up ter de house des ez pale ez a ghos'.
Hot-Foot Hannibal 223
En fer a mont' er so she crawled roun'
de house, en 'peared ter be so po'ly dat
Mars' Dugal' sont fer a doctor ; en de
doctor kep' on axin' her questions 'tel
he foun' she wuz des pinin' erway fer
"Wen he tol' Mars' Dugal', Mars'
Dugal' lafft, en said he 'd fix dat. She
could hab de noo house boy fer a hus-
ban'. But ole mis' say, no, Chloe ain'
dat kin'er gal, en dat Mars' Dugal' sh'd
buy Jeff back.
" So Mars' Dugal' writ a letter ter
dis yer spekilater down ter Wim'l'ton,
en tol' ef he ain' done sol' dat nigger
Souf w'at he bought fum 'im, he 'd lack
ter buy 'im back ag'in. Chloe 'raence'
ter pick up a little w'en ole mis' tol' her
'bout dis letter. Howsomeber, bimeby
Mars' Dugal' got a' answer fum de spek-
ilater, who said he wuz monst'us sorry,
but Jeff had fell ove'boa'd er jumped
off'n de steamboat on de way ter Wim'-
224 The Conjure Woman
I'ton, en got drownded, en co'se he could
n' sell 'im back, much ez he'd lack ter
'bleedge Mars' Dugal'.
" Well, atter Chloe heared dis, she
wa'n't much mo' use ter nobody. She
pu'tended ter do her wuk, en ole mis'
put up wid her, en had de doctor gib
her medicine, en let 'er go ter de circus,
en all so'ts er things fer ter take her
min' off' n her troubles. But dey did n'
none un 'em do no good. Chloe got
ter slippin' down here in de ebenin' des
lack she 'uz' comin' ter meet Jeff, en
she 'd set dere unner dat wilier-tree on
de udder side, en wait fer 'im, night atter
night. Bimeby she got so bad de w'ite
folks sont her ober ter young Mis' Ma'-
g'ret's fer ter gib her a change ; but she
runned erway de fus' night, en w'en dey
\ looked fer 'er nex' mawnin', dey foun'
\ her co'pse layin' in de branch yander,
; right 'cross fum whar we 're settin'
Hot-Foot Ha7i7iibal 225
" Eber sence den," said Julius in con-
clusion, " Chloe's ha'nt comes eve'y eben-
in' en sets down unner dat wilier-tree en
waits fer Jeff, er e'se walks up en down
de road yander, lookin' en lookin', en
waitin' en waitin', fer her sweethea't w'at
ain' neber, neber come back ter her no
There was silence when the old man
had finished, and I am sure I saw a tear
in my wife's eye, and more than one in
"I think, Julius," said my wife, after
a moment, " that you may turn the mare
around and go by the long road."
The old man obeyed with alacrity, and
I noticed no reluctance on the mare's
" You are not afraid of Chloe's haunt,
are you .^ " I asked jocularly.
My mood was not responded to, and
neither of the ladies smiled,
" Oh, no," said Annie, " but I 've
226 The Conjure Woman
changed my mind. I prefer the other
When we had reached the main road
and had proceeded along it for a short
distance, we met a cart driven by a young
negro, and on the cart were a trunk and
a vaKse. - We recognized the man as
Malcolm Murchisbn's servant, and drew
up a moment to speak to him.
" Who 's going away, Marshall } " I
" Young Mistah Ma'colm gwine 'way
on de boat ter Noo Yo'k dis ebenin',
suh, en I 'm takin' his things down ter
de wharf, suh."
This was news to me, and I heard it
with regret. My wife looked sorry, too,
and I could see that Mabel was trying
hard to hide her concern.
*' He 's corain' 'long behin', suh, en I
'spec's you'll meet 'im up de road a
piece. He 's gwine ter walk down ez
fur ez Mistah Jini Williams's, en take
Hot-Foot Hannibal 227
de buggy fum dere ter town. He 'spec's
ter be gone a long time, suh, en say
prob'ly he ain' neber comin' back."
The man drove on. There were a
few words exchanged in an undertor i
between my wife and Mabel, which I did
not catch. Then Annie said : " Julius,
you may stop the rockaway a moment.
There are some trumpet-flowers by the
road there that I want. Will you get
them for me, John .-* "
I sprang into the underbrush, and soon
returned with a great bunch of scarlet
"Where is Mabel.''" I asked, noting
" She has walked on ahead. We shall
overtake her in a few minutes."
The carriage had gone ortly a short
distance when my wife discovered that
she had dropped her fan.
" I had it where we were stopping.
Julius, will you go back and get it for
me .? "
228 The Conjure Woman
Julius got down and went back for the
fan. He was an unconscionably long
time finding it. After we got started
again we had gone only a little way, when
we saw Mabel and young Murchison
coming toward us. They were walking '
arm in arm, and their faces were aglow
with the light of love.
I do not know whether or not Julius
had a previous understanding with Mal-
colm Murchison by which he was to
drive us round by the long road that
day, nor do I know exactly what motive
influenced the old man's exertions in
the matter. He was fond of Mabel,
but I was old enough, and knew Julius
well enough, to be skeptical of his mo-
tives. It is certain that a most excel-
lent understanding existed between him
and Murchison after the reconciliation,
and that when the young people set up
housekeeping over at the old Murchison
Hot-Foot Hannibal 229
place, Julius had an opportunity to enter
their service. For some reason or other,
however, he preferred to remain with us.
The mare, I might add, was never known
to balk again.
•■•> "■ I.
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